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Kuwaitis vote to elect new parliament amid pandemic

Kuwaitis were voting on Saturday to elect a new parliament in the oil-rich Gulf country, in polls overshadowed by the global pandemic and a fall in crude prices.

Kuwait City, 5 December 2020 (dpa/MIA) — Kuwaitis were voting on Saturday to elect a new parliament in the oil-rich Gulf country, in polls overshadowed by the global pandemic and a fall in crude prices.

The election is Kuwait’s first under its new ruler Nawaf al-Ahmad Al Sabah, who took office in September, succeeding his half-brother, the late emir Sabah.

The balloting was ongoing amid expectations of a low voter turnout due to fears of the pandemic.

Authorities have put in place anti-virus precautions including a ban on gatherings in and outside polls, observing social distancing and the mandatory wearing of protective face masks.

Voters infected with the virus are allowed to cast their ballots in designated polling stations.

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sabah al-Khalid on Saturday called on voters to follow health precautions, and avoid mass gatherings and celebrations after results are announced.

“The reports I’ve got about participation in balloting inspires happiness,” he added after voting without giving specific figures.

Some 326 candidates, including 29 women, are standing for election to the 50-member parliament, known as the National Assembly, according to official figures.

All contenders are running as individuals because political parties are banned in Kuwait, a US ally.

Like other oil producers, Kuwait’s finances have suffered due to a fall in prices for crude, the main source of income for the small Arab country.

Kuwait, a hub for migrant workers, has also felt the brunt of restrictions prompted by the pandemic.

Since August, Kuwait has banned flights from 34 countries to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

More than 567,000 citizens in Kuwait — home to 1.4 million people — are eligible to vote at polling stations, which are open for 12 hours starting from 8 am (0500 GMT).

Official results are expected on Sunday.

Kuwait was the first country in the Gulf region to establish an elected parliament in 1963.

While Kuwait holds broadly free parliamentary elections, power effectively remains in the hands of the ruling al-Sabah family and the emir, who appoints the government.

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