376 candidates to contest 50-seat Assembly as registration closes

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Forty-four members of the dissolved National Assembly are among 376 candidates who have filed their nomination papers to contest the Sept 29 snap polls, called after HH the Amir dissolved the Assembly over continued political disputes. At the close of registration of candidates on Wednesday, there are 34 former MPs from previous national assemblies, spearheaded by 87-year-old opposition leader Ahmad Al-Saadoun. Twenty-seven female candidates are in the fray.

The speaker of the Assembly since 2013, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, sprang the biggest surprise of the current elections so far by announcing he will not bid for re-election. In a statement issued late Tuesday, 53-year-old Ghanem said his absence from the Assembly will be “temporary” and that he plans to return with a stronger influence. Ghanem, who played a pivotal role in the country’s politics during the past decade, said he will remain involved in the Kuwaiti political scene.

Saadoun, who was speaker for three terms between 1985 and 1999, is the most likely replacement for Ghanem if he wins a seat in the next Assembly. Many leading candidates have already expressed their total support for Saadoun to become the next speaker. The number of candidates is short by 19 from the 2020 elections. The number is expected to shrink further as some candidates are expected to withdraw. In the previous polls, only 321 candidates actually remained in the race. Withdrawal of candidacy will close on Sept 22, as per the Kuwaiti election law.

Registration of candidates is done in Kuwait on an individual capacity as political parties are barred by the law, although de facto parties of various political affiliations operate openly under groups. Fifty-three candidates, including three women, have registered in the first constituency, 67 candidates including seven women, have filed to run in the second constituency, while 56 hopefuls including nine women are contesting for the 10 seats in the third constituency. As many as 99 candidates, including five women, have registered in the fourth constituency, and 101 hopefuls, including three women, have filed to contest in the fifth constituency.

Kuwait is divided into five electoral districts and each district elects 10 lawmakers. Cabinet ministers become members of the Assembly like elected members, even if they are not elected. The main Islamist group, the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, has fielded five candidates, one each in the five districts.

Many candidates have already launched their election campaigns, which has focused on the need to capitalize on the promise by HH the Amir that the government will not interfere in the elections and the election of the Assembly speaker. Under Kuwaiti law, ministers are allowed to vote for the speaker. The results of the elections are expected to be announced on the night of Sept 29 or the next day. Counting of votes in Kuwait remains manual.

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