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Kuwaiti groups boycotting, participating in polls

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ranging from advocates of Islamic law to Western-style liberals, a majority of political groups are boycotting Saturday's election for Kuwait's 50-seat parliament, while a few are participating in it.

Political parties remain banned in the oil-rich Gulf emirate, although these groups act as de facto parties.

Those boycotting are doing it for the second time in a row in protest at the government's amendment of the electoral law, although the change was confirmed by the constitutional court in June.

These opposition groups along with independent opposition members held no seats in the predominantly pro-government parliament elected in December, but had as many as 36 seats in parliament after February 2012 polls. Both houses were nullified by Kuwait's top court on procedural flaws.

Kuwait's parliamentary system is unique as candidates contest polls individually, and the government is normally formed from outside parliament and its unelected ministers automatically become MPs and can vote like elected members.

The main political groups boycotting the polls are:

-- The Islamic Constitutional Movement, political arm of Kuwait's Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. The ICM has called for political and economic reforms despite advocating a stricter social order. It has not fielded any candidate and is urging voters to shun the ballot.

-- The Islamic Salafi Alliance (ISA), a purist Sunni religious group with hardline views on morality. It is divided on the issue of taking part in polls as one section is participating and the other is boycotting.

-- The Islamic Ommah Party is the only party in Kuwait but it is not recognised by the state. With its radical and progressive views on reforms, including an elected government and a full parliamentary system, the party has stayed away from the polls.

-- The Popular Action Movement brings together former legislators headed by veteran former speaker Ahmad al-Saadun. The group focuses on populist issues such as housing and salary increases, besides calling for radical democratic reforms. It has also urged Kuwaitis to boycott the polls.

-- The Democratic Forum is a liberal group and strong advocate of political and economic reforms with a priority on development. It has decided to boycott the election, though a few of its members defected and are running.

Groups that are taking part:

-- The National Democratic Alliance, an umbrella of a number of moderate liberal groups and individuals close to the merchants. It had boycotted December polls but this time has decided to take part after the court's ruling. Some of its members are still staying away.

-- The National Action Bloc, a liberal grouping which is not a part of the main opposition, has decided to participate after boycotting last polls.

-- The National Islamic Alliance, a Shiite group, has publicly supported the election and is fielding five candidates, one in each electoral constituency.

-- The Justice and Peace Alliance, also a Shiite group, is taking part.

-- Almost all Bedouin tribes, which boycotted December polls, have decided to take part. Analysts, however, are not expecting a high turnout from tribes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130725/kuwaiti-groups-boycotting-participating-polls