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Nod to election commission

Lawmakers agree to return of former political prisoners

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The National Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to pass in the first reading a law to establish a high election commission and allow the return of former political prisoners after their exclusion from political life. Fifty-six MPs voted for the legislation, while MP Jenan Bushehri opposed the law because it imposes some restrictions on female voters. Under the law, the election commission will replace the interior ministry in organizing and supervising parliamentary elections, but it will still remain attached to the ministry of justice. Some MPs demanded the commission to be independent from the government.

The commission will be presided by seven senior judges who will supervise and organize parliamentary polls including the voting process, counting of votes and announcing the results. One of the most important amendments in the law is abolishing a clause that barred for life political prisoners convicted of offending the Almighty, prophets and HH the Amir. Under the new legislation, former political prisoners convicted of offending HH the Amir will now be allowed to run for public office.

The Assembly will need to pass the law in a second reading in the next session after the Assembly panel introduces amendments to the law demanded by MPs. Head of the interior and defense committee that reviewed the government-sponsored legislation, MP Khaled Al-Otaibi, announced that with this law, the period of political executions has ended. MP Fahad Al-Azemi called to amend the law to allow servicemen in the armed forces and the police force to vote like members of the National Guard, who have the right to vote.

MP Marzouq Al-Ghanem said the law will promote more transparency in the election process. But he warned that some sections who have no faith in democracy will try to exploit the law to secure the election of some members to defend their interests. He also called for adding some clauses to stop people from exploiting the Assembly to serve their selfish interests and political ambitions. MP Abdullah Al-Mudhaf said political reforms are the most important and the Assembly must be reformed in order for political reforms to be successful, adding the Assembly should also approve the multiparty law.

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