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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 July, 2003, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Kuwait liberals suffer poll blow
A Kuwaiti casts his vote
Only men aged over 21 can vote
Islamists and supporters of the government have swept to victory in Kuwait's all-male parliamentary elections, held on Saturday.

There were major losses for Western-leaning liberals.

They have been calling for substantial reforms, including extending the vote to women, and for the royal family to loosen its grip on power.

Pro-cabinet candidates took 14 of the parliament's 50 seats, an increase of two. And fundamentalist Muslims, who want a full implementation of Islamic law, took 21 seats, an increase of one.

Liberals and their supporters took just three seats - a massive drop from the 14 they had in the outgoing parliament.

The remaining 12 seats were won by independent candidates, a large increase from the four they held in the last session.

This will be a weaker, quieter parliament, causing less trouble for the government
Shafeeq al-Ghabra, political scientist

There are no political parties in the oil-rich state.

Only 15% of the Kuwaiti population can vote, with all women, recently naturalised citizens and members of the armed forces excluded.

Royal role

On Saturday hundreds of women staged their own mock election to highlight their demand for political representation.

The BBC's Julia Wheeler, in Dubai, says that despite the liberals' poor showing, their campaign for greater women's rights has more chance of success in the new parliament.

Kuwaiti mock elections
Women staged mock elections to highlight their lack of voting power

She said many of the new Islamist MPs are predicted to be less opposed to women having political rights than outgoing colleagues.

Hailing the result on Kuwait Television the deputy prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, said the Kuwaiti people had "proven political awareness and responsibility".

Analysts say the big winner is the al-Sabah royal family. The liberals had been calling for the post of prime minister, traditionally held by the crown prince, to be opened up to election.

"This will be a weaker, quieter parliament, causing less trouble for the government," Shafeeq al-Ghabra, a political scientist told Reuters.




SEE ALSO:
Kuwait minister survives confidence vote
03 Jul 02  |  Middle East
Kuwait in political crisis
15 Mar 02  |  Middle East
Kuwait's pampered economy
27 Feb 01  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Kuwaiti court rejects vote for women
16 Jan 01  |  Middle East
Timeline: Kuwait
08 Nov 02  |  Country profiles


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