By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The court of appeals on Monday reinstated candidate Khaled Al-Mutairi to the election race and said it will issue its verdict on six other candidates on Tuesday. Last week, an interior ministry commission disqualified 15 candidates from running in the elections over criminal and political reasons. Seven challenged the ban in the administrative court, which upheld the commission’s decision.
The candidates again challenged the verdict at the court of appeals. The cases are expected to reach the court of cassation, the highest court in Kuwait. With just 10 days remaining for the crucial snap parliamentary elections, candidates on Monday raised their demands for deep fundamental reforms that should include comprehensive electoral changes and a fair distribution of voters among constituencies.
Most candidates and political analysts have described the upcoming polls on Sept 29 as historic after HH the Amir pledged that the government will not interfere in the polls and in the election of the Assembly speaker. The pledge is unprecedented in Kuwait’s political history, according to leading opposition figure and former three-time speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun, who is tipped to become the next speaker.
A majority of candidates are pleased over a number of reforms taken by the new Prime Minister HH Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah, especially cracking down on outlawed tribal primaries and attempts to buy votes. Sheikh Ahmad was appointed a few months ago to replace the previous premier HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, who was at loggerheads with opposition MPs.
Former MP Muhannad Al-Sayer said he is cautiously optimistic over the developments and the future. “We are looking forward to a true state project that will transfer Kuwait into a better position,” the opposition candidate said. Former MP Osama Al-Shaheen, bidding for re-election from the first constituency, also said he is cautiously optimistic over the near future, following the developments in the past few months.
But the main topics dominating the election campaign so far have been calls for real reforms and a serious program to fight corruption. Candidate Metab Al-Rathaan, running in the fourth constituency, called for launching comprehensive political reforms that should focus on reforming parliament by clearing it of corrupt lawmakers. He said corrupt MPs will never care about issuing legislation for the benefit of the people and will always look after their selfish interests.
Rathaan said the basis for political reforms should be the amendment of the electoral law by abolishing the so-called one-vote system which was introduced by the government in late 2012 amid a political crisis. Under that law, each voter is allowed to select only one candidate in each constituency, although 10 MPs are elected from each of the five constituencies. The previous system allowed a voter to select up to four MPs, which was favorable for political groupings.
Rathaan also called for a fair distribution of voters among the five constituencies. Although each constituency elects 10 MPs, the number of voters varies sharply from one constituency to another. The second constituency for example has 76,000 eligible voters, while there are 240,000 voters in the fifth constituency. The candidate said there can be no reforms without an agreement between the Assembly and the government.
Former veteran opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak said there can be no political reforms while corruption is rife. Candidate Wasmi Al-Wasmi, contesting from the first constituency, said political money has “slaughtered” the election process and corrupted the legislature, adding that Kuwait has no choice but to embrace democracy and safeguard the 1962 constitution.
Former MP Mufrej Nahar, contesting the polls from the fourth constituency, said if the next government is truly reformist, it should expose the names of corrupt people. Candidate Abdulwahab Al-Essa, running in the second constituency, said for Kuwait to achieve durable political stability, it must amend the electoral law to promote the work of political groups rather than individuals.