Critics sweep ahead in Kuwait

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The Independent Online
KUWAIT (AFP) - Opposition candidates swept to victory in Kuwait's first parliamentary election for seven years, but could be deprived of a majority when the Emir picks his new government.

Official results showed the opposition won 32 out of the 50 National Assembly seats in Monday's election. Candidates from three Muslim fundamentalist movements won nine seats, and liberals wanting more democracy, 13. Independent candidates supported by one or other of the main opposition blocs won 10.

Government supporters, notably tribal leaders and members of a consultative National Council formed by the ruling emir, took the remaining 18 seats. The emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, could upset the result if he appoints a cabinet of non-deputies.

They would automatically become voting members of parliament under the constitution, and if the ministerial team remained at its present 15 the pro-government side would have a 33 to 32 majority in the assembly.

The emir dissolved the last parliament in 1986, after it persistently criticised the government. He promised to hold fresh polls amid opposition and Western calls for democracy during the Iraqi occupation of August 1990 to February 1991.

Abdallah Nibari, who won one of two seats for the opposition Democratic Forum, said: 'I am very optimistic and I hope the Sabah family will co-operate with us to achieve the aspirations of the Kuwaiti people.' Ahmad al-Radi, a leading independent, said: 'It's the strongest assembly that Kuwait has ever known.'

The opposition was in the minority in the former National Assembly, which was elected in 1985. Turnout was more than 80 per cent, but only 81,440 men out of the 650,000 native population were eligible to vote. The economist Ahmad Saadun said the election results were a 'bad surprise for the government', which had received strong criticism during the campaign.

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