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Court upholds one-vote decree, scraps assembly – New elections to be held – Opposition slams ruling
June 17, 2013, 12:00 am

In yet another dramatic day in Kuwait’s political crisis, the constitutional court yesterday nullified the election process held on Dec 1 last year and dissolved the National Assembly, but at the same time it upheld the controversial Amiri decree that amended the electoral law and sparked street protests. Head of the court’s five-judge panel Youssef Al-Mutawa read out the verdict in the Palace of Justice auditorium that was packed with journalists and lawyers.

The court, whose verdicts are final, called for holding fresh elections on the basis of the single-vote law that has been repeatedly described by the opposition as unconstitutional. The court based its decision to scrap the Assembly for the second time in a year on the basis that another Amiri decree issued in October last year to establish the National Election Committee is “unconstitutional”, saying there was no urgency in issuing the decree. In June last year, the constitutional court nullified the election process and scrapped the opposition-dominated Assembly that was elected in Feb 2012 on the basis of flawed procedures. A few months later, HH the Amir issued the controversial decree to amend the electoral law under a clause in the constitution that gives the Amir the right to issue laws when the Assembly is absent or dissolved.

The decree amended the electoral constituency law by reducing the number of candidates a voter can pick from a maximum of four to just one. Accordingly, the decree was known as the single-vote law. The court explained that the executive authority has the full right to issue legislation when the Assembly is dissolved and pointed out that the amendment decree could not wait until the Assembly came back. As a result, the court said the controversial decree served national interests, adding that many democratic countries in the world have a single-vote system in elections.

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Sabah welcomed the court’s verdict, saying that it is a proof that Kuwait is a country of institutions ruled by the constitution and the law He called on all citizens to respect the verdict and abide by it as he urged citizens to “put this issue behind us” and to consolidate national unity. The Amir also stressed that he will not allow sectarian disputes to take place in Kuwait. The Cabinet held an extraordinary meeting to assess the situation and said it has ordered concerned authorities to implement the ruling. It however gave no dates for any action.

It was not clear so far when fresh elections will be held and what will happen before that. Under Kuwaiti law, fresh elections must be held within two months of dissolving the Assembly, but this date falls either in Ramadan or immediately after. Observers spoke about alternatives that may include delaying the polls until after summer holidays. Members of the opposition strongly lashed out at the court ruling. Former MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei said it was “the worst decision” because it confirmed the single-vote legislation, while former MP Mohammad Al-Kandari said it has practically withdrawn the power of the people to legislate and rested it in the hands of the government. Former MP Mubarak Al-Waalan said the only outcome for the political stalemate in the country is to “withdraw the decree”.

The opposition, which reiterated last Wednesday a pledge that they will not participate in any future election on the single-vote basis, went into an emergency meeting at former speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun’s residence to review the ruling and come out with a unified position. However, the liberal National Action Bloc welcomed the verdict out of respect for the constitutional court and its rulings. Information Minister Sheikh Salman Humoud Al-Sabah said it would boost democracy in Kuwait. “The court’s decision today enhances the durability of the democratic system that is enjoyed by Kuwait.

Kuwait has a proud history of respecting the constitution and maintaining the rule of law,” the minister said. Analysts and observers said the court’s verdict will not contribute to resolving the political crisis that has been raging for over a year and it is expected to escalate tension in the country. But it was clear yesterday that a section of the opposition is expected to contest the coming election.

Source: Kuwait Times

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