KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Radical Sunni Islamists made a strong showing in Kuwait’s legislative election and minority Shiites gained one more seat, but women failed again to enter parliament, according to results released on Sunday.
Official results from all five districts showed that the hardline Islamic Salafi Alliance and its allies won at least 10 seats in Saturday’s poll, almost twice their strength in the previous chamber.
Sunni and Shiite Islamists grabbed more than half of parliament’s 50 seats.
Sunni Islamists won 21 seats, four more than their number in the previous parliament which was dissolved by the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state in March after a standoff between the government and MPs.
About half of the Sunni Islamists came from tribal areas.
The moderate Islamic Constitutional Movement, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, however saw its strength cut by half to three MPs.
The number of lawmakers from the Shiite Muslim minority increased by one to five.
All elected Shiite MPs are Islamists, including two members of the previous parliament who took part in a controversial rally in March to mourn the slain military commander of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Imad Mughnieh, which triggered sectarian tensions.
Analysts had predicted that sectarian divisions would play a key role in the early election in the emirate, where Shiites constitute one-third of the native population of just over one million.
Liberals and their allies won seven seats, one fewer than in the previous house, while the nationalist Popular Action Bloc led by veteran opposition figure and three-time speaker Ahmad al-Saadun took four seats, down one.
Saadun himself won a record ninth term, but came in lowly ninth place out of 10 winners in his constituency. He has been an MP since 1975.
Women, who were contesting the election for only the second time, failed to win any seats. Twenty-seven women were in the running.
Women had also failed to make a breakthrough when they voted and stood for office for the first time in the June 2006 legislative ballot.
Female voters made up 55.4 percent of the 361,700 eligible voters in Saturday’s early election, but only about half of them cast their votes, according to unofficial turnout figures.
Twenty-two new faces will enter the parliament, mostly from tribal areas. Voters have said they wanted change in a bid to end political feuding and put the wealthy OPEC state back on the track of economic development.
Outgoing speaker Jassem al-Khorafi, a wealthy businessman, retained his seat.
Under the Kuwaiti constitution, the cabinet will resign within two days and Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah will ask the current premier or another member of the ruling family, as is the norm in Kuwait, to form a new cabinet before the new parliament holds its first session by the end of May.
At least one member of the 16-strong cabinet must be an elected MP. Unelected ministers become ex-officio members in parliament and enjoy the same voting rights, thus raising the house membership to 65.
Accordingly, despite the Islamists’ victory they will not be a majority in the assembly.
Parliament, elected for a four-year term, has legislative and monitoring powers and can vote ministers out of office but it cannot bring down a whole cabinet.
Kuwait says it sits on 10 percent of global oil reserves and pumps around 2.5 million barrels per day. It has amassed 250 billion dollars of assets thanks to high oil prices.