By Abdullah Al-Mohammad and Maytham Ashkanani

KUWAIT: With the skyrocketing summer temperatures cooling down, the election season in Kuwait is heating up and all eyes are on what is expected to be a very lively Parliamentary elections. Candidates who are contesting the 50 seats will be elected by popular vote in one of the oldest and most powerful legislatures in the Arab Gulf states. While it is hard to predict the outcome of the elections because there are no party system elections in Kuwait, here are some points to consider.

The appointed government made a major step towards reforming the electoral system before the forthcoming National Assembly election on Sept 29, 2022. The ministerial committee that formed to investigate the electoral fraud have reported a wide number of illegal voters’ lists across the five constituencies, which in previous elections was deemed to be against the will of Kuwaiti voters. To act towards this violation, the ministerial cabinet approved two emergency decrees at their meeting, requiring eligible voters to vote in constituencies that are based on residential addresses and where their Civil IDs will be used for the voting process.

This is also the first time that nationals can vote with their nationality certificate. The emergency decree was issued by HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and published in the official gazette accordingly. The movement of votes among the electoral lists was used as a tool to gain seats in the Assembly by different candidates, resulting in several illegal attempts to influence public opinion.

Dr Muhammed Al-Faily, Professor of Public Law at Kuwait University and speaking to Kuwait Times states that, this constitutional perspective is affirmed in the decree to explain why it is an urgent matter. It is assumed that most probably the constitutional court wouldn't accept any appeal around the emergency decree leading to the annulment of the entire election process.  Electoral fraud is also being observed through the fact-finding committee after a long investigation done to ascertain the electoral lists.

Voting / election concept: hand holding voting card with country national flag, inserting it into white ballot box; clean neutral background — Kuwait

Moreover, the decree added nineteen areas on the electoral data to allow the citizens their right to vote, as they were deprived to have an electoral list in the past. And as for involving citizens for whom all terms and conditions of elections apply, he said that it was the solution towards all those who have the right to vote in their new areas to be registered, as the usual period for listing has expired. He also added that all other citizens that have the right to vote, have the right for their names to be added into the electoral rolls, to show equality in the nation, as article 7 in the Kuwait constitution states.

Speaking with the Associate Professor of Political Science at Kuwait University, Dr. Hameed Alabdullah said, "The impact will be great with changed election calculations this time around." As an example, he added that there were around 8,000 voters who left one of the constituencies and this observation through previous elections results defines the impact of those thousands of transferred votes on the election results by reinforcing the representation of several social and sectarian goals above the public interests. The impact of the new way of voting has also been demonstrated during the pre-election period, where several former MPs and candidates announced either not to run in the election or change their candidate constituency.

Therefore, this illustrates how voting using the Civil ID will prevent this kind of violation that often happens in the past elections. Speaking to Kuwait Times, Dr. Ghanim Al-Najjar, a professor of political science at Kuwait University thinks that the changes will affect the results but because of its short period, most candidates are confused, so, there will be major confusion, a reason why a sizable number of known regular candidates decided not to run this time around. Dr Al-Najjar also commented that the "will of the nation" is a presumptuous concept, hard to be measured. However, this election will reflect the true opinion of voters according to their real residence and according to their civil ID.

Although the current early predictions suggest that the impact will be great due to the changed way of voting, there are low expectations for the overall women representation winning some seats in the next elections. Dr Wafaa Alaradi, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kuwait University speaking to Kuwait Times analyzed the issues with five major reasons. The primary reason being the political culture of Kuwait, followed by current institutional obstacles, rationality of women limitations in serving individual demands, the lack of financial support and political awareness. It is to be seen if these five reasons will stop women from being elected in the upcoming elections. Due to the current political scene and the Kuwaiti political culture, applying Quota law would serve women with regards to equality in the parliament, however there is a need for many legislative and law reforms before the quota law can be applied.

There are many major topics awaiting both the elected parliament and the government after the elections. But there are certain predictions that some topics will quickly rise to be at the top of the agendas. Things like housing, education and a new residency law are top priorities in the upcoming months, Dr Alabdullah, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Kuwait University predicted. Such topics have been a constantly debated issue within Kuwait for many years now.

As to whether they can be solved or not, it's a thing yet to be seen. Dr Al-Najjar said that freedom of expression, bedoon, women's rights and an aim to diversify the economy are topics the parliament and the government needs to focus on in the upcoming years, adding that "the most important reform is the creation of the independent electoral commission to supervise elections, which at the moment, is carried out by the Ministry of Interior and the judiciary on the day of election."