Kuwait rifts highlighted by election boycott
BY Associated Press
Sunday, December 02, 2012
12/02/12 at 6:20 AM
Kuwait's deep political rifts took center stage in parliamentary elections Saturday as backers of the ruling establishment cast ballots while a broad opposition alliance staged a boycott and vowed to reject the outcome.
The voting capped months of political upheavals and showdowns in the oil-rich Gulf state - a strategic Western ally - and the polarized atmosphere suggested more tensions ahead.
Kuwait has the Gulf's most politically powerful parliament and the election is certain to restore control to pro-government lawmakers. Yet that doesn't guarantee any extra breathing space for the ruling system amid claims it is overstepping its powers.
A wide-reaching coalition of opposition factions - ranging from hardline Islamists to Western-leaning liberals - already has challenged the legitimacy of the new parliament because of the boycott and could increasingly take their grievances to the streets.
Kuwait has largely escaped the unrest sweeping the region, and any potential for greater unrest is closely watched by Washington, which has thousands of U.S. ground forces in Kuwait as part of the Pentagon's military counterweight to Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Islamists and tribal allies won control of the 50-seat parliament in February elections, but the chamber was later dissolved over a legal challenge by the ruling establishment over electoral districts. Kuwait has been left without an effective working parliament for more than five months.
Complaints against authorities include increasing efforts to muzzle free speech and failure to have Kuwait's economy and growth keep pace with other dynamic Gulf centers such as Qatar's capital Doha and the United Arab Emirates' hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Original Print Headline: Kuwaiti vote snub adds to unrest