Shiite drawback in Kuwait

The latest elections signal a Shiite drawback in Kuwait, and in the same time, the strenghtening of liberal elements and some sunni Islamist parties as well.

In the sixth parliamentary election of Kuwait over 7 year, the previously strong Shiite party seems to be losing popularity, and lost half of their parliamentary seats. Instead, Sunni and liberal parties are more popular and gained more votes. This signals a Shiite drawback in Kuwait, unprecedented so far in the country.

Shiites form only about 30% of Kuwait’s native population, yet they were so far dominant over Sunnis and other factions of the political scale. Out of the 50 seats of the parliament, the Shiite used to hold 17 seats, but only managed to gain eight of these seats. Meanwhile, the liberals who did not hold any seats, they have now at least representatives in the parliament, reflecting a desire to change and end the political crisis in the country. Sunni Islamists on the other hand gained not more than seven seats, while it is still more than the five they used to hold in the previous cycle.

voter turnout has been higher than in the previous years in Kuwait

This change can be a reflection of the increased voter base, as groups that have previously boycotted the elections now decided to vote. These groups mainly include liberal groups (thus the increase) and Bedouin tribes, which possibly caused the slight increase of Sunni Islamists’ participation. This also increased the voter turnout from 40% to above 52%.

However, instead of 3, only 2 women were elected, although the new parliament has at least 26 new figures who were not elected previously.

It is questionable how much chance this parliament has for survival, as none of the past six parliaments completed the 4-year term, and the last two were dissolved by the constitutional court on procedural grounds. The others were dissolved by the emir himself. Kuwaitis hope for a parliament that can finally complete its 4-year term without being dissolved, yet political stability in Kuwait is a fragile piece of art which is hard to establish and harder to keep.

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