Al-Ghanim back for likely Speakership
KUWAIT CITY, Dec 5: Kuwaitis elected on Saturday their representatives to the 50-member National Assembly. HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al- Sabah and HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Meshaal Al- Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent cables of thanks to HH the Commander of the Kuwait National Guard Sheikh Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah, HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister and Minister of Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh, Foreign Minister and Acting Information Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Al-Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, Minister of Health Sheikh Dr Bassel Humoud Al-Sabah, Minister of Justice and Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Fahd Al-Afasi, Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Saud Al-Harbi, Minister of State for Municipality Affairs Walid Al-Jasim, Director General of Kuwait Fire Force Lieut.
Gen Khaled Al- Makrad, Director General of Kuwait Municipality Ahmad Al-Manfohi and Chairman of Kuwait Red Crescent Society Dr Hilal Al-Sayer for their role in the successful organization of the legislative election. About 567,694 male and female voters made their way to 107 schools to choose 50 members from among 326 candidates, including 33 women, to represent the country in the Parliament for the sixteenth legislative term – 10 members from each constituency. This election saw a large turnout amid fears of weak participation, low voting turnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unpredictable rainy weather, which experts had termed as critical, decisive and different from earlier elections for a number of reasons and considerations, the most important of which is that it is the first during the reign of His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad, and the second is that it is taking place in light of a global pandemic and there were fears voters may keep away and the third is that a number of those who boycotted the elections earlier in protest against the amendment of the electoral system (oneman one-vote), are participating this time around. At the time of going to the press the following were the top fifteen contestants in each Constituency with former speaker Ali Marzouq Al-Ghanim the overall top vote-getter.
First Constituency: Hassan Jowhar; Hamad Rohaldin; Ali Abdulrasoul Al- Qattan; Ahmed Al-Shuhoumi; Essa Al-Kandari; Yousef Al- Gharib; Adnan Abdulsamad; Abdullah Al-Turaiji; Abdullah Al-Mudef; Osama Al-Shaheen; Adel Al-Damkhi; Osama Al- Zaid; Saleh Ashour; Kamel Al-Awadhi; Yousef Al-Zalzalah.
Second Constituency: Marzouk Al-Ghanim; Mohammed Barrak Al-Mutair; Khalil Ibrahim Al-Saleh; Bader Hamad Al-Mullah; Hamed Mohammed Al-Matar; Bader Nasser Al-Humaidhi; Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hamed; Khalid Al-Anzi; Hamad Al-Bathali; Salman Al-Azmi; Hamad Seif Al-Harshani; Fahd Abdulaziz Al-Masaud; Omar Al-Tabtabaei; Riaz Ahmed Al-Adsani; Alia Faisal Al-Khalid.
Third Constituency: Abdulkarim Al-Kandari; Faraj Al-Otaibi; Osama Al- Monawar; Mohammed Nasser Al-Jabri; Abdulaziz Al-Sakabi; Mahalhal Al-Medef; Mohannad Al-Sayer; Mubarak Zaid Al-Mutairi; Yousef Al-Fadalah; Saadoun Hammad; Amar Al-Ajmi; Hamad Adel Al-Obaid; Yaqoub Al-Sanea; Jarrah Al-Fouzan; Hisham Al-Saleh.
Fourth Constituency: Shuwaib Al-Muwaizri; Farez Ghannam Al-Jumhour; Saud bu Slaib; Musaad Al-Mutairi; Mohammed Obaid Al-Rajhi; Saad Al-Rashidi; Farz Al-Daihani; Mohammed Haif Al-Mutairi; Naif Al-Mutairi; Marzouk Al-Khalifa; Tamer Al-Suwait; Ali Al- Deqbasi; Hussein Al-Daihani; Asker Al-Anzi; Farraj Al-Arbid.
Fifth Constituency: Badr Al-Dahoum; Hamdan Al-Azmi; Mubarak Al-Ajmi; Saifi Mubarak Al-Saifi; Saleh Diab Al-Mutair; Khalid Al-Otaibi; Mohammed Hadi Al-Huwailah; Majed Musaad Al-Mutairi; Faisal Al-Kandari; Hamoud Al-Azmi; Nasser Al-Dosari; Naif Al-Ajmi; Hani Hussein Ali; Marzouk Faleh Al-Azmi; Hamoud Al-Hamdan.
As a matter of fact, former MP Safa’a Al-Hashem who contested the parliamentary elections from the second constituency, at the time of going to the press was not among the top 15 contestants. Minister of Justice Dr Fahad Al-Afasi affirmed on Saturday that the parliamentary elections proceeded smoothly and without any obstacles due to excellent efforts by personnel of all the concerned state departments.
In a statement to Kuwait News Agency and Kuwait Television, Dr Al-Afasi, also Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, said personnel of the ministries of justice, interior and health, played a key role in facilitating the electoral process. Members of the electoral commissions, namely judges and personnel of the judiciary, have exerted extraordinary efforts in the shadow of the health measures due to the novel coronavirus. This high turnout since early hours of the balloting affirms the Kuwaiti citizens’ awareness of their constitutional rights and positive interaction with public affairs of the homeland, he said.
Kuwait voted Saturday for its National Assembly, the first election since the death of its longtime ruling Amir and as the country faces serious economic problems under the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s hundreds of thousands of voters selected lawmakers for 50 seats in the Parliament, the freest and most-rambunctious assembly among the Gulf Arab countries. Parliaments typically don’t serve out their full terms in the stalwart US ally, but this one did. Kuwaitis voted across 102 schools in the nation, which is the size of the US state of New Jersey.
Authorities said masks and social distancing were required due to the pandemic. Several schools took those with active cases of the virus, with the sick first receiving permission from the government to vote. “Life is developing so everything should develop including the election either through parties or blocs,” Kuwaiti voter Issa Al-Qallaf said. Major blocs include those backing the ruling family, Islamists and moderate liberals. The vote came after the death in September of Kuwait’s ruler, the 91-yearold Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, 83, quickly took power without any opposition. The outgoing Parliament then approved Sheikh Nawaf’s choice for crown prince, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber, the 80-year-old deputy head of Kuwait’s National Guard.
The new Parliament will need to make decisions on a number of matters, perhaps none more important that Kuwait’s economy. This fall, the ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Kuwait for the first time in its history. The finance minister warned the government soon wouldn’t be able to pay salaries. Kuwait’s national bank said the country’s deficit could hit 40 percent of its gross domestic product this year, the highest level since the financial devastation of the 1990 Iraqi invasion and subsequent Gulf War. With crude oil prices just above $45 a barrel, other nearby Arab states took on debt, trimmed subsidies or introduced taxes to sustain their spending. Kuwait, however, did none of that.
That’s not to say Kuwait will be begging for aid at international summits anytime soon. The Kuwait Investment Authority holds assets of $533 billion, according to the Las Vegas-based Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, making it the world’s fourthlargest such fund. The problem is Kuwait has no legal framework to deficit-spend beyond its current limit of $33 billion. It needs the country’s Parliament to grant approval. But lawmakers likely will face a popular backlash as the public fears the money will be lost to corruption amid a series of high-profile cases shaking the country. “We have to fight corruption by choosing who will represent us inside the National Assembly,” one voter, Azraa al-Rifai, remarked. Kuwait has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves. The country hosts some 13,500 American troops, many at Camp Arifjan south of Kuwait City, which is also home to the forward command of US Army Central.
By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies