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Elections

Shiites lose seats in Kuwait polls

Final results from Kuwait's elections show Shiite candidates losing more than half their seats, while liberals made a slight gain. The poll was the second in eight months after a court ruled a December vote invalid.

The results of Saturday's election, released on Sunday, showed Shiite candidates winning only eight seats in the 50-member parliament. This contrasts with a record 17 seats in the December elections and represents a major blow to radicals.

At least two Shiite and two Sunni religious radicals who have all been accused of fomenting sectarian tensions failed to be re-elected. Shiites make up about 30 percent of Kuwait's native population of 1.23 million.

The Liberals, who had no seat in the previous parliament, won at least three this time round. The parliament also includes representatives of Sunni Islamists, merchants and almost all Bedouin tribes. Only two women were elected compared to three in the previous parliament.

The official figures also recorded a significant rise in turnout, with figures posted on the information ministry website saying that 52.5 of eligible voters went to the polls on Saturday. In the December elections, turnout hit a record low of 40 percent, largely because of an opposition boycott.

In accordance with the constitution, the government resigned. The ruling emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah accepted the resignation but asked the prime minister and his ministers to remain on until a new cabinet is formed, state news agency KUNA said.

Political upheavals

Leaders in Kuwait hope that the results of the elections will restore stability in the Gulf nation, which has seen escalating confrontations between its Western-backed rulers and an Islamist-led opposition over the past few years.

In 1962, Kuwait was the first state in the Gulf to adopt parliamentary democracy. The parliament possesses legislative and monitoring powers, but the government is controlled by the ruling Al-Sabah family.

A court last month found December's election to be technically flawed, but let stand a new electoral law that the opposition says enables the government to manipulate the outcome. The law gives one vote to each person, rather than, as previously, four votes that could be spread among various candidates.

Critics claim the former law encouraged vote buying and pressures by tribal leaders to keep the votes within their clan. But opposition factions objected to the change, saying it could prevent them forming a majority, and vowed to boycott the election, as they did in December.

Saturday's election was the sixth since 2006, with parliaments being repeatedly dissolved over procedural disputes or for challenging the government.

tj/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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