High hopes for major change as Kuwaitis register for polls

Beginning of political crisis’ end?

KUWAIT CITY - Candidates began registering on Wednesday for early polls in Kuwait after its ruler dissolved parliament over a political crisis, with high hopes for major changes to the fully elected house.
Several candidates who filed nomination papers said they expected the fourth general polls in less than six years to put an end to political bickering and achieve stability in the wealthy Gulf state.
"The change in this election will be huge thanks to the young generation who will play a pivotal role in the polls," Hussein Jamal, contesting for the second time, said after submitting his candidacy for the February 2 vote.
Abdullah al-Oteibi, a 34-year-old standing for election for the first time, said it was youths who forced the dissolution of parliament and would be them who "elect an honest chamber that will fight corruption".
At the end of the first day, 109 candidates, including six women, registered their names. The process ends on December 30.
Former Shiite MP Saleh Ashour, who supported the previous government, said he expects "at least 50 percent" of the outgoing 50-member parliament to be changed as he bid for re-election.
"The major change and the success of more young candidates will play as a balancing factor in Kuwaiti politics and lead to relative stability," Jamal said.
New opposition hopeful Al-Humaidi al-Subaie predicted opposition groups would win 33 seats, "the needed majority to control the house and issue anti-corruption and other necessary legislation, achieving stability."
Subaie said that the expected opposition victory would "achieve political stability" and allow parliament to also focus on development plans.
Large public rallies organised by youth activists and an unprecedented corruption scandal forced former prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to resign last month for the seventh time in under six years.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah appointed a new premier and then dissolved parliament and called for snap polls, the fourth general elections since May 2006.
Oil-rich Kuwait has been rocked by almost non-stop political disputes during the past six years between Sheikh Nasser and opposition MPs who accused him of failing to run the wealthy state and fight corruption.
The new polls come after the public prosecutor questioned 13 former MPs on charges that hundreds of millions of dollars were illegally deposited in their bank accounts, in addition to nine opposition ex-MPs for storming parliament.
All were released on bail pending further investigation.
Women, who won political rights in 2005, are taking part for the fourth time as both voters and candidates. They constitute 53.8 percent of the total eligible voters of 400,000.
In 2009 polls, four women won the first parliamentary seats ever and one of them, Masouma al-Mubarak, said she expects women to fare well in the forthcoming elections.
Kuwait is OPEC's third largest producer, pumping about 3.0 million barrels of oil per day.
Despite accumulating massive assets exceeding $300 billion from high oil prices, development projects have been stalled because of the political turmoil.