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‘Voter suppression’ rumors denied
Govt calls to adhere to national unity • Cabinet expected to set date for snap polls

KUWAIT: The government on Sunday refuted rumors circulating on social media claiming that the government was planning to change the elections law with the aim of preventing thousands of Kuwaiti citizens from voting in the upcoming snap parliamentary polls. Government spokesman Amer Al-Ajmi denied the rumors in an official statement, saying that “circulating such reports destabilizes the nation’s unity and creates divisions”. Ajmi urged citizens to ignore such reports and adhere to national unity.

The government spokesman was reacting to a heated debate on social media about calls and countercalls for the government to amend the elections law to prevent naturalized citizens from voting or contesting the elections, which will be held within two months. The Cabinet is expected to set a date for the snap polls following the dissolution of the National Assembly by HH the Amir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah  on Feb 15 over remarks by some MPs deemed offensive to HH the Amir.

Under Kuwaiti law, fresh elections must be held within two months of dissolving the National Assembly. The Cabinet, which meets Monday, is considering setting that date in light of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which is due to start on March 11. Local reports said the government may decide to hold the polls either just before the last 10 days of Ramadan, around the end of March, or just after Eid Al-Fitr and before April 15, the last legal day for elections.

The rumors that the government denied claimed that a plan was underway to amend the election law to cancel a 1994 law that treated children of naturalized citizens as original Kuwaitis. Under Kuwaiti law, Kuwaitis by birth, known as original citizens, who or their ancestors had lived in the country before 1920, hold first-degree citizenship. Naturalized Kuwaitis hold citizenship from two to eight, depending on the article in the law upon which they were given citizenship.

Under the election law before the amendment, only original Kuwaitis could vote and contest the polls. Naturalized Kuwaitis can only vote after 20 years of obtaining citizenship and are barred for life from running in elections. However, in 1994, the National Assembly introduced a major amendment to the law known as law 44,1994, stating that children of naturalized Kuwaiti men born after obtaining citizenship are considered Kuwaitis by birth or original citizens.

That gave thousands of Kuwaitis the right to vote and contest parliamentary polls, which dramatically changed the Kuwaiti election map. For several months, some activists have bluntly called for canceling law 44/1994, which effectively means depriving hundreds of thousands of citizens of the right to vote and contest polls. The debate over this critical issue intensified after the dissolution of the Assembly and before crucial snap polls in the next 60 days.

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