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Women return to Kuwait's Parliament after new elections

The vote was held after an election campaign marked by promises of political and economic reforms in the Kuwaiti country
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AP/GUSTAVO FERRARI  -   File photo showing a general view of the Kuwaiti National Assembly

Women have returned to Kuwait's parliament with two new women MPs after the results of Thursday's elections in the small Gulf country were announced on Friday, after they were absent for the first time in years in the previous legislature dissolved by the Kuwaiti emir, official media reported. 

Yinan Ramadan and Alia al-Khaled were elected as the new deputies out of 50 MPs in the chamber, which is divided into five constituencies, according to the official Kuwaiti news agency KUNA. 

No turnout percentage has been reported so far, although Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jamal al-Yalaw told KUNA yesterday that the turnout was "high", without giving further details. 

A total of 795,911 Kuwaitis were called to vote to elect new MPs from among 305 candidates, including around 20 women, in a country where 70% of the population are expatriates and are not allowed to vote. 

The vote followed an election campaign marked by promises of political and economic reforms in the small but oil-rich country, the only one among the Gulf monarchies to have a parliament that exercises control over the government. 

The previous chamber was dissolved on 15 June by decree of the emir, Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, amid political paralysis caused by differences and mutual accusations between MPs and members of the government over which the previous executive resigned en bloc in May. 

Differences between these two Kuwaiti powers are consistent in Kuwait, although they have been exacerbated in the last two years by the impact of COVID-19 on the country's economy. 

These two years have been characterised by continued political tension following accusations of corruption and ineffectiveness by legislators against ministers, who have accused MPs of "abusing the tools that allow them to question" members of the government. 

On 1 August, Kuwait announced the formation of a new government, the fifth under Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who took office at the end of September 2020. 

Under the Kuwaiti constitution, the emir has the power to dissolve parliament or the government if either branch formally notifies him of its inability to cooperate with the other. 

Kuwait has no political parties, but is the only Gulf Arab country with a democratically elected parliament, which has traditionally exercised a controlling role over the executive.