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Kuwaiti elections: Voters' views

Kuwait is holding its third elections in four years on May 16. The Emir dissolved the latest parliament to protect the prime minister from being questioned by MPs over corruption. Tensions between the democratically elected parliament and the government often result in political stalemate.

Seven Kuwaitis discuss their hopes for the new parliament.


Khaled al-Mashaan

Khaled al-Mashaan


Nadia al-Sharrah

Nadia al-Sharrah


Abdulla Othman

Abdulla Othman


Zaid alNasser

Zaid alNasser


Muhannad al-Nafeesi


Nour al-Attar



Nouriya al-Adwani



Khaled al-Mashaan, Chairman and MD of Alargan Real Estate

Khaled al-Mashaan

I always vote, it's my duty. If people don't vote because they mistrust the system, well, we have to allow time for our young parliament to grow. It's a question of maturity.

My top issue is to have a strong prime minister. If parliament wants to grill the prime minister - fine! Do it. The more you say no, the bigger an issue it becomes.

I would also like to see government members more free from parliamentary groupings. People see the political stagnation disrupting life in Kuwait. But I have confidence in both government and parliament - we can make it work.

We were always the envy of the Gulf, now people say: "Look what you have brought on yourselves." Let's get back to that first position.

In our business, we have always tried to promote private/public partnership. Without it, we cannot solve a major problem in Kuwait, which is housing. So we always look for candidates who would promote such a partnership.

We have also taken precautions by moving business out of Kuwait, to reduce our exposure to these issues [of political stagnation]. I'm not happy at not being able to operate in my own country.

Nadia al-Sharrah, 40s, economist

Nadia al-Sharrah

I am campaigning for a woman candidate, Aseel al-Awadi, who nearly got in at the last election. She has a very good chance of becoming Kuwait's first woman MP.

Many things in Kuwait need fixing: our sea port dates from before the invasion [by Iraq in 1990], we have a shortage of electricity, our hospitals are 20 years old, our weak education system means Kuwaitis cannot compete with graduates from other countries.

I think some people around the government try to make out that parliament is at the root of all these problems. It isn't. The government could sort all this out without any interference from parliament.

When we elect people we should let them serve their full four-year term. The political system needs to settle.

I will vote for Aseel, of course. She is young, well-educated, clever and charismatic. She appeals to people from all backgrounds. She will be capable and strong in parliament. If she gets in, it will be a big victory.

Abdulla Othman, 46, university teacher

Abdulla Othman

Of course I'm not going to vote - it's a joke! I think parliament is corrupt; candidates stand for election because of business interests.

Many of them own companies involved in Kuwait's second major export: "Iqamas", or work permits.

Every company here is allowed to import a certain number of workers from South East Asia. Hiring more than you need, then selling the permits back to workers - 500KD ($1,713.00) per annum is the going rate - is big business. Many MPs have companies involved in this.

The first thing certain MPs will request, is that the prime minister, appointed by the Emir, be subjected to a grilling. The latter will refuse, cabinet will resign, parliament will be dissolved, and it will be back to square one!

This country is run by a few families, a bit like the mafia. A cursory glance at the board membership of major companies is all that's needed to confirm this.

It used to be the big merchant families, but now, the Bedouin have also become a force to reckon with and want a share of the pie. Getting elected is one way of securing this.

I am only half Kuwaiti. I lived here for a few years in my teens, and moved here as an adult in 2006. So, I'm not really part of the system.

Zaid alNasser, 24, lawyer

Zaid alNasser

I always vote. This time I will use two of my four votes and choose political and religious candidates; the development of Sharia law is an important issue for me.

I would like to see changes in Kuwait's health care. There are many complaints about doctors and poor health care.

Kuwait also needs to diversify its economy away from oil. We must push the government to consider other natural or industrial resources for the next generation.

I don't think women will be elected this time because they lack the experience, but I am sure they will get in in the future.

I'm not confident parliament will change for the better, because previous candidates are standing, preventing able and responsible people getting in.

I have doubts about the coming parliament, I think what happened in the past might repeat itself.

Nour al-Attar, 22, banker

This will be the first time I vote. What matters to me are women's rights and the future of my country.

Of the four candidates I can vote for, three will be women. Men have done nothing for us. Women will change everything and I really believe a woman is going to get elected this time.

It will make a big difference. People will see that a woman in parliament will do better than a man, and no-one will be able to say a woman's only place is at home with the children.

These are hard times for all of us. Everything stopped because MPs who don't want the best for the country put themselves first. But I think we will choose better candidates this time.

We know our Prince Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah will not let anyone take our freedom from us. He is the best and he knows what his people want.

Muhannad al-Nafeesi, 42, aviation safety inspector

I won't be voting, although I have in the past. The issues that matter to me are education, health, the environment and Kuwaiti security.

I'm not satisfied with the way Kuwait is run. I definitely think democracy is a good thing. However, clever but evil people have used it the wrong way to paralyse development and to make a mockery out of parliament.

I think we lack patriotism, and the sense of belonging to this land. I think Kuwaitis' attitude towards Kuwait must change.

I don't think a woman will be elected this time, women are not ready for that yet. It's not the men who are not ready.

I don't think it would make much difference if a woman did get in. Perhaps the Americans and Europeans might like us a bit more, but nothing else.

Nouriya al-Adwani, 40s, university administrator

I will not be voting, I never have and I do not wish to share my reasons.

The top issues for me are social services. Kuwait is experiencing a population explosion and health services are insufficient.

The government also needs to have clear plans on education and tourism. People often go abroad to enjoy their weekends or vacations. We should be able to do this within Kuwait. Clear national plans will restore people's confidence in government.

I think democracy is a good thing and the government has good intentions, but infighting between the government and parliament stifles everything. And there is no respect for the law. Good laws are useless if they are not implemented.

I am happy to see the female candidates and I think they have a good chance of getting in this time. As I say this, I hear prayer being called, so perhaps God has heard this request.

I believe having women ministers in the previous government led to more enlightened ideas. But the government is losing time and is often unable to implement proposals due to the constant 'grilling' of the government by members of parliament.



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