The current political crisis in Kuwait is aggravated by the Emir’s recent decision to change the electoral law and consequently reduce the number of votes each voter can cast to one. The previous voting system was the so-called single transferable vote in the case of multi-seat constituencies. An elector’s vote is initially allocated to his or her most preferred candidate. When candidates have either been elected or eliminated, any surplus or unused votes are transferred according to the voter’s stated preferences. Since parties are still de facto illegal in Kuwait, this would be one way to minimize wasted votes by transferring votes to other eligible candidates that would otherwise be wasted on sure losers or sure winners.
As David Hearst wrote yesterday in a report by the Guardian on further attempts by security forces in Kuwait to forcefully crack down new protests of opposition groups, reducing the number of votes to one would prevent that the opposition could ever take control in parliament.
“The source of the ferment in Kuwait has little to do with Islamism. It is an amendment to the electoral law pushed by the emir that would reduce the number of votes each voter cast to one. With multiseat constituencies, this would mean that, as in Jordan, if the opposition candidate got 70% of the vote, the remainder of the vote would be divided up among the other seats for the same constituency. This would pave the way for a neutered parliament in which the opposition could never take control. It is blatantly undemocratic but it is non-negotiable.”
The Emir, who has final says in any state affairs and appoints his prime minister (who in turn selects the cabinet), apparently wants to put end to the annoying quarrels in a parliament which has very limited legislative power. Election day with the new voting system imposed has been set to December 1. Opposition groups have promised to boycott the charade.
Late but not too late, Kuwaitis seem to have awaken right now becoming more and more aware of the fact that a nice parliament building has little to do with democracy in the country.
5 November 2012 @ 7:34 pm.
Last modified November 5, 2012.