By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Former speaker of the National Assembly since 2013 Marzouq Al-Ghanem announced on Tuesday he will not run in the Sept 29 snap elections, adding the move is temporary, as he plans to come back at a later stage. He said in a statement on Twitter that after consultations, “I have decided not to run in the current parliamentary elections”.

Ghanem thanked the large numbers of supporters throughout Kuwait who had urged him to contest the polls, adding that he will let coming developments to expose a number of “hidden” facts. The US-educated Ghanem is one of the leading politicians in the country. The 53-year-old ex-parliamentarian had become a strong voice in the National Assembly.

He was elected as speaker of the house in 2013, 2016 and 2020, but has been at loggerheads with opposition MPs, allying with the former prime minister HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah. “The decision not to run in elections is a temporary decision, which will be followed - God willing - with a stronger return to complete the march of safeguarding the interests of the nation,” Ghanem said.

He added the temporary decision does not mean abandoning the political scene or shunning national duties. Ghanem said that this stage requires all of us to stand united before the political leadership and stay away from personal disputes and political quarrels that are harmful to Kuwait’s democratic experience. Ghanem is the fifth member of the dissolved house who have announced they will not run in the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the number of candidates who registered to contest the Sept 29 snap polls rose to 350 on Tuesday with just one day remaining for the registration process. Of the hopefuls who filed their nomination papers to contest for the 50-seat National Assembly, there are 44 members of the dissolved house. Of the remaining six, five have said they are not running.

Twenty-four female candidates and 326 men have registered, while three candidates withdrew from the race yesterday, raising those who have withdrawn to six. The registration of candidates ends on Wednesday, while the door for withdrawal will remain open until Sept 22. Among those who registered on Tuesday were former leading opposition MP Mohammad Al-Mutair, former opposition MP Musaed Al-Mutairi and former MP and minister Hamad Rouh El-din.

Mutair said if the elections produce a majority of reformists, the next speaker will be elected by consensus from among the reformists. Former MP Mutairi called on the new Prime Minister HH Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah to start fighting corruption. Rouh El-din, who left the opposition camp to join the Cabinet several months ago, said he adopted a reformist policy in the Cabinet.

Fresh candidate Saudi Al-Asfour called on opposition candidates to end infighting and unify ranks. Former MP Marzouq Al-Khalifa called on the government in a statement to help pass legislation that allows Kuwaiti courts to look at issues related to Kuwaiti citizenship. Under current law, courts are barred from hearing citizenship cases, claiming they are “sovereign” matters.

In a televised speech to the nation in June, HH the Amir pledged the government will not interfere in the parliamentary elections nor the election of the Assembly speaker. The Assembly was dissolved last month over continued disputes between the government and opposition MPs. Snap polls have been set for Sept 29.