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Kuwait Heads to the Polls

After a corruption scandal that saw parliament stormed and campaigns marred by arson and riots, Kuwaits are voting.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/2/2012, 4:04 PM

Kuwait City
Kuwait City
CC/Mohammad Alatar

After two days of campaign related rioting and arson that led Kuwait's Interior Ministry to ask rally organizers to cancel their election eve events, the oil rich nation is at the polls.

According to election officials voting got underway smoothly and without incident.

Witnesses told the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that mainly old people braved the cold weather and winds to cast their ballots at stations where the police and medical teams have been clearly visible since early morning.

Relatives and friends of candidates reportedly circulated in the vicinity of polling stations in a last bid to encourage voters to support them.

The easy-going atmosphere sharply contrasted with the violence and incidents that marred the end of the campaigns.

No clear leader emerged during the campaigns as candidates universally ran on a platform of corruption-busting political reform and economic stability.

Howver, some analysts are worried about covert Iranian attempts to use the elections to bring about a change in relations with the US. Analysts say that Islamist candidates are faring better than they did in the last elections in 2009. However, their predictions heavily leverage the trend that dominated outcomes in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.

Unlike those nations, which were rocked by the Arab Spring, the prosperous and well-fed nation of Kuwait is not filled with revolutionary fervor or a push for 'regime change.'

Instead, the current elections were prompted by a corruption scandal in which some $350 million in public funds are said to have gone missing - which resulted in parliament being stormed by opposition protesters.

The government of Sheikh Nasser, Emir Jaber III al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah's nephew, was forced to resign while prosecutors in Kuwait city probed 15 lawmakers they believe sold their votes to the government.

The Emir subsequently appointed an interim government, dissolved the parliament, and called for new elections in order to ensure calm prevailed.

The elections are the third to be held under the five-constituency system introduced in 2006, and the fourth in which women are allowed to vote and run.

Kuwait’s polling stations opened at 8 am, on time for the 400,296 registered voters to cast their ballots and elect 50 representatives to the parliament.

Elections officials told reporters that 543 polling stations have been set up throughout the country to allow the 215,300 women and the 184,996 men to elect their representatives from the 287 candidates, including 23 women.

Polling stations are scheduled to close at 8 pm and results will be announced sometime after midnight.