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Four NGOs to monitor elections

Prosecution frees 3 vote-buying suspects • Candidate calls for controls on expat numbers

By B Izzak

 KUWAIT: The Cabinet on Monday agreed to allow four local civil societies to monitor the June 6 general elections, Minister of Social Affairs Mai Al-Baghli said after the council’s weekly meeting. She said Kuwait Journalists Association, Kuwait Transparency Society, Kuwait Integration Society and the Society for Follow Up of Parliament Work have been allowed to take part in “supervising the election process”. The minister said the approval came to allow the highest degree of transparency in the elections.

The public prosecution meanwhile freed three people, a Kuwaiti and two expats, but kept seven others in detention as it continues to investigate a vote-buying network busted by the interior ministry. One of those in detention is a Pakistani national who has reportedly been buying votes for candidates for KD 400 each. The interior ministry said on Saturday that it had busted a 10-member network of people buying votes in favor of some candidates. The prosecution also summoned two candidates suspected of links to the network, one of them a former MP.

Candidates for the June 6 National Assembly election stepped up their campaigns with just seven days left for the polls. Basel Al-Bahrani, a candidate running from the first constituency, called on authorities to apply strict controls on the growth of expats, especially large communities. Bahrani said the number of native Kuwaitis is still under 1.5 million people, while the number of expats is two-and-a-half times larger, or 3.7 million.

He added that five communities form the majority of expats and together they are twice the number of Kuwaitis, some three million people. Bahrani said the solution to this problem is in issuing legislation to prevent the number of any expat community from exceeding 40 percent of Kuwaitis, or under 600,000 in accordance with the current numbers.

The government is currently engaged in applying measures aimed at reducing the number of foreigners, but it has not yet issued a well-defined plan for that. Former MP Abdullah Al-Mudhaf, running in the first constituency, said Kuwaiti people are upset and angry and the country needs lawmakers capable of confronting corruption.

Also, a number of female activists on Monday issued a joint statement demanding that children of Kuwaiti women married to foreigners should be granted citizenship. The statement rejected calls by civil societies and candidates urging the government to grant such children permanent residence in Kuwait, warning that they will not vote for any candidate who supports permanent residency at the expense of Kuwaiti citizenship.

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