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KUWAIT: Heading to the polls, yet again

May 16, 2009 |  9:03 am


Kuwaiti voters headed to the polls today for the third time in three years to elect a new parliament amid an economic downturn that has spurred some to reconsider the Persian Gulf kingdom's experiment in democracy.

Kuwait's ruling emir dissolved parliament earlier this year, accusing it of unnecessarily blocking a series of reforms that he said would  make the economy more efficient, and for going after members of the royal family for alleged corruption.

Kuwait began its latest democratization drive after the U.S. pushed Iraqi forces out of the country in 1991. But it has been a rocky road, with the ruling Sabah family reluctant to give up the reins of power. Nevertheless, says the BBC's Julie Wheeler, "This election is being described by some as the fiercest they've ever known."

About 200 candidates are running for the 50-seat parliament. Sixteen women candidates are struggling hard to become the country's first woman lawmaker, even though 54% of the country's 400,000 or so eligible voters are women.

Most experts say conservative Islamists hold the edge. But at least one opinion poll showed them losing ground to liberals, according to Al Arabiya television.

Kuwait's English-language Arab Times has pretty extensive election coverage, as does the official KUNA news agency

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Kuwaiti parliamentary candidate Thekra al Rasheedi talks to supporters during an election rally in Jahra, north of Kuwait City. Credit: Gustavo Ferrari / Associated Press