A team of international observers, which was invited by the Kuwait Transparency Society (KTS) to Kuwait to observe the Dec 1 elections, finished its report and made certain recommendations which were made public yesterday by the Ministry of Information.
The Undersecretary of Ministry of Information, Sheikh Salman Al-Homoud Al- Sabah, expressed his satisfaction at the conduct of elections that reflected the functioning democracy in Kuwait.
The inspectors represented various organizations including the Arab Network for the Monitoring of Elections, Arab Organization for Transparency and Integrity, National Democratic Institute and Lebanese Association for Democratic Election among others. The Undersecretary of Ministry of Information, Sheikh Salman Al-Homoud Al- Sabah, expressed his satisfaction at the conduct of elections that reflected the functioning democracy in Kuwait. “We are glad that this election did not witness any problems. The elections went smooth without any complications and it is considered an important phase in Kuwait’s history. We feel sorry for the two Japanese journalists who had come to cover the elections and unfortunately met with an accident.
They are now in a hospital receiving medical treatment,” he noted. Dr. Salah Al-Ghazali said that this election was positive compared to the previous poll. “Before this election, we received only five complaints of vote buying while during the previous election, we had received 47 complaints of the same nature. This means a 90 percent drop in such crime. The elections went off smoothly despite the fact that the government granted the opposition a license for their protest held just a day before the elections. Thus, the opposition was given an advantage though it was against the norms of pre-election silence. Still, the voting process was satisfactory,” he pointed out.
The total voting percentage in all the five constituencies was 40.3 while it was 59.5 during the previous election. The Arab and international team members observed and monitored the elections from November 29 till yesterday. The team met with representatives of the Ministry of Information, the higher national committee for elections, some candidates, and some of those boycotting the elections. The Arab international delegation comprised 22 experts from NGOs hailing from 15 Arab countries, besides Holland and the United States. They went on field visits to all the five electoral constituencies and visited more than 150 committees. They issued their statement after the electoral process was concluded.
The report also appreciated the application of international standards of integrity in elections and the decision to follow international principles for local observers.
The formation of the national higher committee for elections, which is completely independent, was a key positive point that figured in the team’s observations. Formation of this committee was in line with an earlier recommendation of the Arab and International team, and is a positive step to strengthen the transparency and ensure independence of elections. The report also appreciated the application of international standards of integrity in elections and the decision to follow international principles for local observers. It also appreciated inclusion of the clause about maintaining electoral silence, just before actual balloting, to the law no. 21/2012. This proviso decreases the pressure and tension among the candidates. The elections went off smoothly without the policemen appearing inside the voting rooms.
The ballot centers were well equipped with facilities for the media, health, and security services, besides provision of facilities for the disabled. In general, the elections went well as all institutions cooperated and provided all facilities to the voters. The team noticed kind and respectful treatment being meted out to the voters. The team appreciated the organizational arrangements and noticed that the electorate lists were well-prepared with voters’ names organized. The voters received due instructions and the committees were placed in a transparent manner. Furthermore, the report mentioned that international criteria specified for elections were followed. These include maintaining the secrecy of balloting, ensuring correct voting procedures by the judges, and allowing the KTS along with the Arab and international monitoring team to monitor the elections. Among the negative observations made in regard to the elections law was the unequal division of voters in the five constituencies, as there are 47,772 voters in the second constituency while the fifth constituency has 118,461 voters, though all constituencies have the same number (ten) of seats.
The report also criticized the criteria for media and advertizing for elections and described these as not being clear. It noted that election campaign speeches were being broadcast even on the day of the election. It also criticized the upper age limit for voters and candidates. In addition, the report found the number of voters in some committees as being very high, which resulted in a longer wait. The international norm for the number is between 400- 600 voters. “All the previous negative observations were not in the category of any suspicions about correctness of procedure or transparency of the electoral process. We hope that next elections will be held according to the new election law that takes into account our recommendations,” Talib Awad from the Arab delegation said after reading out the report
By Nawara Fattahova, Kuwait Times Staff