Kuwait is just one day away from electing its fourth National Assembly since May 2006. Media pundits and political analysts are calling tomorrow’s elections one of the most significant, taking place during one of the most politically turbulent periods in Kuwait’s history since parliamentary democracy was introduced in 1962.
Corruption, political infighting, and sectarian and tribal tensions have been rampant over the past few months, as candidates have intensely campaigned in the small Gulf state’s five voting districts. Most recently, angry tribal members from the Al-Mutair tribe burned down the election headquarters of a candidate known for his controversial and provocative statements and comments against Bedouin tribesmen and Kuwaitis with dual citizenship. Thousands of people gathered around the fire preventing fire brigades and engines from reaching the scene, as traffic around the area ground to a halt.
This month’s elections will also be the most expensive since Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi forces. More than 200 million Kuwaiti Dinars (KD) (equivalent to over 600 million US Dollars) have been spent thus far. The 280 candidates vying for the 50 seats in the Assembly have been spending excessive amounts on luxurious election headquarters, media advertisements, and extravagant buffet meals for constituents. By comparison, candidates spent KD 9.97 million in the 2009 elections and KD 21 million in the 2008 elections. This year’s astronomical figure has also raised concerns of voter buying, which has been common practice during past elections.
At a time when the region is undergoing historically transformative events that will reshape its geo-political landscape, political analysts and civil society members will be waiting to see whether Kuwait’s newly elected Assembly will further fan sectarian flames or work towards a united national front.