Election fever grips Kuwait as 'vote merchants' cash in
Kuwaiti Reham al-Jlewe (C), a candidate in Kuwait's upcoming parliamentary elections, welcomes her guests at her election campaign tent in Kuwait City (Yasser al-Zayyat / AFP)
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With Kuwait’s parliamentary election fever heating up, reports said that the illegal votes buying market is charging up to 2,000 dinars (Dh25,580) for a vote.
Kuwaiti men and women will cast their ballots to choose their lawmakers on July 27 amid an expectedly tough competition between the 418 candidates, including eight women, who had signed up their names to seek the 50 seats in the legislative house.
However, reports in the capital Kuwait City said that the competition has pushed the cost of votes up to 2,000 dinars.
“The fact that the electoral system allows now only one vote instead of four as was the practice in the past has pushed prices up,” sources told local daily Al Jareeda.
Under a new system introduced last year, voters can cast only one ballot instead of four. The amendment has been a point of serious contention between the government and the opposition, and the Constitutional Court in June ruled in favour of keeping the new system. Opposition figures responded by announcing that they would boycott the elections, like they did on December 1.
“In the First and Third constituencies, the votes cost 1,000 dinars, but the prices may go up to 2,000,” the sources said. “In the Fourth and Fifth constituencies, it varies between 1,000 dinars and 1,500. We even now have bulk buying, especially in the Second and Third constituencies that allows the purchase of 15 to 20 votes for 30,000 dinars.”
Although vote buying is banned, people involved in the trade have set up a special fund to help with their lucrative business.
“The fund oversees the whole operation and tells the people who received the money how they should vote. This will clear the candidate who is buying the votes from any suspicious activity while it helps the fund to make money. The fund can even direct candidates in case they need support or more votes at the last minute,” the sources, not identified by the daily, said.
Kuwaiti authorities regularly warn against the trade in votes that precedes elections and send out teams to check purchase claims and monitor the situation. They also ban the use of primary voting by tribes to shortlist their candidates for the parliamentary elections and bolster their chances to win seats.
By Habib Toumi