KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Voters in Kuwait chose to shake up their parliament and sent two women to the assembly in the Gulf Arab nation’s second election in less than two years, according to results released Friday.
The results, which will bring 27 new members to the 50-member assembly, were seen as a vote for change amid a prolonged period of gridlock between the Cabinet, which is appointed by the royal family, and the 50-member assembly, which is democratically elected and more independent than similar bodies across the region.
Official results published by the state-run KUNA news agency showed that two women, Alia al-Khaled and Jenan Bushehri, will be among the incoming lawmakers. The last elections in 2020 saw the sole female member of the assembly lose her seat.
Kuwaiti women have increasingly voiced frustration with parliament’s failure to pass laws protecting women from abuse and so-called honor killings in the conservative society.
The new assembly will include 27 new members, around a dozen of whom served in previous assemblies, local media reported.
Kuwait has the freest and most active assembly in the Persian Gulf, but political power is still largely concentrated in the hands of the ruling Al Sabah family, which appoints the prime minister and Cabinet, and can dissolve the assembly at any time.
Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Jaber, an 82-year-old who has assumed many of the duties of the ailing 85-year-old emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, called Thursday’s elections earlier this year when he dissolved parliament.
Since the previous emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, died two years ago, Kuwait’s long-standing political deadlock has worsened. Lawmakers have grilled ministers over alleged corruption and ministers have resigned in exasperation.
Sheikh Meshal has vaguely threatened “forceful measures” if these elections fail to break the gridlock between the appointed Cabinet and the democratically elected assembly.
In July, the ruling emir’s son, Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Sabah, was named prime minister. The 66-year-old former deputy prime minister and interior minister was widely seen as a conservative yet popular choice.
The squabbling has prevented the assembly from passing basic economic reforms, including a public debt law that would allow the government to borrow money, leading to the depletion of its general reserve fund despite its vast oil wealth.
Kuwait has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves and hosts some 13,500 American troops.