Kuwait is set to hold parliamentary elections for the third time in 18 months, as a boycott by the opposition movement undermines public interest in the campaign. The vote on July 27 will go ahead after the country’s constitutional court this week rejected an attempt to postpone it. Kuwait’s opposition won the first of last year’s two elections in February, then refused to take part in the second in December, objecting to changes in voting rules that sparked the country’s most violent street protests. The movement, a mix of Sunni Islamists, liberals and youth groups inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, has called for Kuwait’s rulers to share more powers with elected politicians. It says changes to voting rules ordered last year by Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah were aimed at reducing its chances of winning and making it easier for candidates to buy votes. The emir said they would bolster the democratic process and safeguard unity in Kuwait, OPEC’s third-biggest oil producer.
“This is an election without any soul,” Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, said by phone. “People have lost interest in overall results and mechanisms, and are realizing that not much will come of it.” The result will be “a fragmented set of individuals with no coherent political program.”
The election was ordered by the Constitutional Court last month, when it dissolved the assembly and upheld the emir’s decree on voting procedures. About 440,000 Kuwaitis are eligible to elect 50 lawmakers. In December, the boycott led to a turnout of 40 percent, down from as much as 90 percent in 1981.