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Elections 2008 guide

Nada Almutawa
26/05/2008 12:00 AM

Special Report

Elections 2008 guide

Published Date: May 17, 2008
By Hussain Al-Qatari, Staff writer

Kuwait goes to polls May 17 to elect a new national assembly, the second in less than two years. Elections are being contested for the first time after the electoral districts were slashed from 25 to five. Here`s a detailed guide to voting blocs, groupings, coalitions, and tribes:

Islamic Salafi Alliance
An affiliate of the Heritage Revival Society, the Alliance opposes women`s empowerment. One of the main objectives of the Islamic Salafi Alliance is to enforce Sharia law in the country. It believes that this is the only way to govern the country. It ranks it as the first objective among its 15 priorities. The Alliance says that by doing so, the country can thrive and compete with other nations in the region. The application of Islamic law is also considered as a means to accomplishing social security. It claims on its website, "Nothing other than the application of God`s word is competent of the making of a blessed, secure society." The Alliance also suggests solutions to the problems of housing, employment of Kuwaiti youth, and inflation among other issues. It suggests a reform agenda that is derived solely from the Quran and Sunna.

The Alliance`s standpoint from the issue of women`s rights leans more toward fundamentalism. Although it gives women equality when it comes to job opportunities and income, it states that the jobs "should be suitable for women`s abilities and physiological nature."

There are five candidates from the Alliance this electoral term - distributed between four electoral districts. Mohammad Al-Kandari from the first, Abdullatif Al-Ameer and Khalid Bin Essa from the second, Ali Al-Omair from the third, and Ali Al-Enizi in the fourth.

Islamic Constitutional Movement
Better known locally as `Hadas`, the Movement is an affiliation of the Islamic Brotherhood. It began to take its full shape in the Social Reform Society, and has a strong base and affiliates in the country, especially in areas like Rawda. A major affiliate is Al-E`tilafiya, a Kuwait University party that has been winning KU`s students union elections since the beginning of KU`s elections (with the exception of 1975-1979, during which the Democratic Circle took over). The ICM aspires to modify the Constitution in accordance with what it sees to be fit for society. They believe in democracy as long as it does not exceed the limits drawn by Islamic teachings.

The ICM does not see that women are capable of electing themselves, as it conflicts with the law of Sharia with regard to who may govern and make decisions for the nation. The Movement strictly believes in the laws and regulations of the Sharia, and deem its dominance on the Constitution.

The Movement has a heavy presence with 16 candidates distributed throughout five electoral districts. They are: Jamal Al-Kandari and Mohammad Al-Azmi from the first; Duaij Al-Shemmari and Jam`an Al-Enizi from the second; Nasser Al-Sane and Abdulaziz Al-Shayji from the third; Mohammad Al-Busairi, Khudair Al-Enizi, Mohammad Al-Thafeiri, and Mutlag Al-Rasheedi from the fourth; and Mubarak Al-Ajmi, Obaid Al-Ajmi, Falah Al-Azmi and Torky Al-Otaibi from the fifth electoral districts.

National Democratic Alliance
A liberal group that has a progressive reform program, the National Democratic Alliance believes that Kuwait should abide by the laws of its Constitution, and believe in its ability to advance the country. It is often accused of immorality and of wanting to turn Kuwait into a non-Islamic state. It refutes these accusations by stating that it adheres to the Constitution`s articles, which state it derives most of its rules from Islam.

The NDA is a main supporter for co-education and the desegregation of school institutions. It was one of the main protestors for the Orange Revolution (better known as Nabeeha Khamsa) in 2006, as well as granting women their political rights. The NDA stresses the importance of uniting Kuwaiti citizens under the umbrella of the one country, rather than dividing them into sects and tribes.

The NDA is a liberal bloc that is much criticized by Islamists, but strongly backed by young liberal Kuwaitis. The Alliance has eight candidates around the first three electoral districts. They are Abdulmohsin Al-Medej from the first electoral district; Mohammad Al-Sager, Ali Al-Rashed, Mohammad Al-Abduljader and Abdulrahman Al-Anjeri from the second electoral district; Aseel Al-Awadi, Khaled Al-Khaled and Faisal Al-Shaya from the third electoral district. The Alliance has also launched TV channel Nabeeha Tahalof and publishes the daily newspaper Al-Jarida.

The Shiites
The Shiite candidates have formed two similar alliances, both of which are working together at the first electoral district. They are the National Islamic Alliance and the Justice and Peace Alliance. The first is fielding four candidates: Adnan Abdul Samad, Ahmad Lari, Jaber Behbehani and Hassan Jawhar.

The National Islamic Alliance is alleged to have links with Iran and Hezbollah, accusations that it denies. It is a staunch supporter of political reform and has called for justice and equality among citizens. It is contesting the election in coordination with another Shiite group, Al-Meethaq (the Charter).

The Justice and Peace Alliance includes Saleh Ashour, Anwar Bu Khamseen and Khalil Al-Saleh. They represent primarily the Arab Shiite community in Kuwait.

The two alliances encourage women`s role in the political field and see it as necessary for the advancement of the country, giving historical examples of Prophet Mohammad`s daughter`s role after his death.

Even though the alliances allege to work for equality between all sects and ethnic groups in Kuwait, it is always accused of contradiction, as all its members are strictly Shiites. Shiites account for about 30 percent of Kuwait`s 1.4 million citizens.

The Popular Action Bloc
The bloc brings together former legislators headed by veteran former Speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun. It had five lawmakers who seek re-election and support other candidates. The group focuses on populist issues like housing and salary raise, and reform.

The Ummah Party
The Ummah Party, the first political party in the Gulf Arab region, was launched in January 2005 by a group of Islamists and conservatives but was never recognized by the State. The Ummah wants multi-party democracy and a peaceful rotation of power in which the prime minister would not be a member of the ruling family. It is fielding 11 candidates in all five electoral districts.

The Ummah boycotted the last polls in June 2006 in protest against the failure to reduce electoral districts from 25 to five. One of the prominent members of the party is Dr. Sajed Al-Abdeli, current TV host on Al-Qurain channel and a writer for Al-Jarida newspaper.

Bedouin tribes
Almost all Bedouin tribes have carried out primary elections and each tribe`s candidates are contesting at the same time from a joint platform, especially with the four of the biggest tribes, Al-Awazem, Al-Mutairi, Al-Ajman, and Al-Rasheedi. The tribes compete most strongly in the first, fourth and fifth electoral districts.

Al-Awazem has a strong base in the first electoral district where they form about 14 percent of the voters, and the fifth electoral district where they account for about 21 percent of the voters.

Al-Mutairi has its strongest base in the fourth and fifth electoral districts, with an estimated 16,000 to 17,000 voters. The tribe held a primary and elected four candidates: Mohammad Hayef Al-Mutairi (also Salafi Islamist), Hussein Al-Quwaian, Mubarak Al-Waalan and Raja Hujailan Al-Mutairi.

Al-Rasheedi are the second largest tribe in the fourth electoral district. They have around 15,000 voters. The tribe has carried out primary election and elected former MP Deqbasi, Nasser Al-Duwailah, Saad Al-Khanfour and Mohammad Al-Rasheedi. Two former MPs from the tribe Mubarak Al-Khrainej and Mezel Al-Nemran have failed.

Al-Enezi have about 8,347 voters in the fourth electoral district, which is where they have their strongest base. They have not decided on a candidate to support.

Al-Ajman are a power in the fifth electoral district, where they are the second largest tribe after Al-Awazem, with around 16 percent to 20 percent of the voters. The tribe elected Abdullah Al-Barghash, Mohammad Al-Obaid and Mohammad Al-Khunain besides former MP Abdullah Mahdi.

Al-Otaibi have their strongest base at the fifth electoral district where they form seven percent of the voters. Al-Shemmari have their strongest base in the fourth electoral district, with 6,787 voters. Al-Thafieri have 5,238 voters in the fourth electoral district, forming about six percent of the total number of voters. Al-Hajri hold base in the fifth electoral district with 4,734 voters, while Al-Dawsari have 2,340 voters in the same electoral district out of their total of 3,857 in all of Kuwait.

Al-Harbi have 3,224 voters, most of which centered in the fifth and the fourth electoral districts, while Subai`e have the majority of their voters only in the fifth.

Al-Marri have 2,592 voters in all of Kuwait, majorly in the fifth, and Al-Fadhli, Al-Hershani, Al-Adwani, Al-Khaldi, Al-Qahtani, and Al-Sehali have small percentages around the five electoral districts.