Kuwaitis Protest Electoral Law, Palestinians Conclude Municipal Elections
Thousands of Kuwaiti Islamist and nationalist opposition members took to the streets of Kuwait City on October 21 to protest the decision by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to amend the electoral law, a move protesters call “a coup against the constitution.” The changes, which allow voters to choose only one candidate per electoral district, would prevent its candidates from winning the majority they won in the last vote, opposition members argue. The ability to forge an electoral alliance, which depends on supporters of one candidate voting for another in exchange for reciprocal support, would become unfeasible under the new system, they say. In addition, the government recently announced that parliamentary elections would be held on December 1. The ruling al-Sabah family said the decisions had been made in order to “to preserve national unity”. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti security forces were beefed up to prepare for the demonstrations, using tear gas and stun grenades to control the crowd. Al-Sabah had said that police would “decisively confront” protesters, and that he would not accept a “culture of violence” or “chaos on the street.”
In the West Bank, Palestinians successfully concluded the first round of municipal elections since 2005. Despite the boycott of Hamas, Fatah failed to take a majority in several major cities including Nablus. Voter turnout was reported at 55 percent, down from the nearly 78 percent seen during parliamentary elections in 2006. However, the fact that elections even took place was seen as a great success. “We are proud of the performance [and] the results were satisfactory,” said Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission. Hana Sinora, co-director of Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, expected a lukewarm response to the elections. “People in general are not in the mood for the elections, because of the economic situation and the political situation,” he said. Many voters, such as Bayan Shbib, expressed discontent saying, “I wish there was a third party. We have a major problem here in Palestine. It’s either Fatah or Hamas. To me they have both proven a failure in responding to the people’s needs and aspirations.” Yet, many Palestinians place the blame squarely on Israel’s shoulders. “People understand they are living in a culture of prison; what is left to them is to improve life within the walls of the prison,” says Mahdi Abdul-Hadi, head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.