The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: A number of candidates, including ex-MPs, have broken a total ban on the traditional election campaigns to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, hosting hundreds of voters to rallies and dinner banquets. At least 10 candidates, most of them from the predominantly tribal fourth constituency, held such rallies and published pictures on their Twitter accounts showing large crowds many of whom without face masks.

The new development comes amid a lackluster election campaign that almost entirely depended on social media and television interviews. Authorities have slapped a total ban on public rallies and dinner banquets to prevent contacts between people.

Authorities have advised voters to abide by strict health measures on election day on Dec 5, especially after a sharp drop in new coronavirus cases in the country. The government has also made preparations to allow people infected with the coronavirus to cast their ballots by allocating special isolated voting booths.

Analysts meanwhile are predicting a low turnout because of the pandemic. Election specialist Saleh Al-Saeedi, writing in Al-Qabas Arabic daily, said he expects the number of voters who cast their ballot to be low due to coronavirus concerns. Saeedi said this will benefit Islamists and tribal candidates because they have more committed and loyal voters, who will likely brave pandemic concerns to vote for their candidates.

Leading opposition MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri, contesting from the fourth constituency, yesterday warned against attempts by the interior ministry to interfere in the election, adding that Kuwait is passing through a delicate juncture. Former MP Hasan Jowhar, bidding for a comeback from the first constituency, strongly lashed out at the government agency for stateless people (bedoons). He said when the agency was established 10 years ago, its director promised to resolve the crisis within five years. But the crisis has become even more complicated and the sufferings of thousands of bedoons have increased.

Meanwhile, the court of cassation yesterday said it will issue its final ruling today on whether former opposition MP Bader Al-Dahoum and others can take part in the election. Dahoum's lawyers had demanded that the court's judges be replaced because they had participated in a similar case in 2016, but the court rejected the request and set today to issue its ruling. An interior ministry commission last month disqualified 34 candidates from contesting the polls, but the court reinstated 15 and is likely to add some more to the total. In total, 322 candidates are running in Saturday's polls.