Polls open in Kuwait as opposition returns

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KUWAIT CITY: Polls opened in Kuwait Saturday for the oil-rich Gulf state’s seventh general election in a decade, at a time of sharp disputes over subsidy cuts due to falling oil revenues.

Analysts are expecting a large turnout in the snap polls triggered by the return of the opposition, which boycotted the previous two elections to protest the government amendment of the electoral law.

The emir dissolved the last parliament after MPs called for ministers to be grilled over subsidy cuts, in a state with a traditionally generous cradle-to-grave welfare system.

Female voters were lined up to cast their ballots at the women’s polling station in Jabriya, just south of the capital Kuwait City, as polls opened at 8 am (0500 GMT).

Voting is taking place at 100 polling stations set up in schools, with separate centers for men and women, and some 483,000 people eligible to cast their ballots.

The government’s austerity measures, mainly hiking petrol prices, were the top issue at election rallies.

A majority of the 293 candidates, which includes 30 opposition hopefuls, vowed during the election campaign to issue legislation to prevent the government from taxing citizens.

The OPEC member has seen its oil income, which made up 95 percent of public revenues, nosedive by 60 percent over the past two years.

Polls are due to close at 8 pm with first results expected after midnight (2100 GMT) as ballot papers in Kuwait are still counted manually.

AFP

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