Elections in Kuwait: Economic Challenges Increases Turnout

business

A Kuwaiti man casts his ballot to choose parliamentary representatives, in Kuwait City, Saturday, Nov.26, 2016

Kuwait – Kuwait voters turned out in large numbers at the poll stations to elect new representatives for the National Assembly, the 15th since Kuwait’s independence in 1961.

Kuwaiti sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the turnout was between 69% and 72% compared to 2013, where it was 51.9%.

Political observers attributed the huge participation among both genders to two main reasons. They believe that economic challenges and the expected laws to be passed drove citizens to elect for their representatives. The second reason is the return of the abstainers who sat out in 2013 elections.

Kuwaiti political analysts believe that the return of opposition is the reason for the huge turnout. Resources close to the regime believe that brings back the national unity and unites all parties in the National Assembly.

The current government, led by Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Hamad al-Subah, is expected to resign on Monday.

Turnout was high with some polling stations reporting that 80 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots by the time polls closed, state-run Kuwait Television reported.

The elections witnessed huge participation of the elderly since the government provided wheel chairs and transportation. A voter was sick, and used an ambulance to take him on his hospital bed to the polling station to cast his vote.

Friday was electoral silence day, one day before the actual elections day. The law provides that the media, even electronic media, is not allowed to practice any activities regarding the candidates’ electoral campaigns.

Nominees themselves will have to bring their campaigning to a complete halt. Anyone, including the media, caught breaking the mandated silence will be subject to a KD 5,000 fine.

Pre-election silence aims to give voters a chance to carefully consider their choice for the election day. The media can only offer messages to educate the voters on elections, or urge them to positively take part in the vote.

According to the Ministry of Information’s relevant decree, broadcasting, re-broadcasting or publishing any interviews, programs or reports with candidates for the National Assembly elections or the Municipal Council, is prohibited on the polling day, and the day before it.

Asharq al-Awsat newspaper toured the polling stations in some schools and saw candidates among their supporters. They were in their designated tents with their pictures hung inside and with food everywhere. It was like a celebration.

According to Kuwaiti law, candidates are allowed to enter the polls stations. Former Speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem told the press that Kuwait is facing many challenges that should be addressed.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Interior warned voters not to take photos of the ballots after casting their votes, saying this is prohibited by the election law. According to the law, a violator can spend five years behind bars, and pay a fine of KD 5,000, the ministry’s statement added.

Article 44 of Kuwait’s Election Law provides for punishing violators in the case of using force or threatening to prevent voters from practicing their rights, or to vote for certain candidates, or refraining from balloting.

The same article provides for a penalty in case of vote buying, promoting false news about a candidate’s behavior among voters, or going to the polling station with a device with the intention of taking photos of ballots to prove one has voted for a certain nominee. Also, one will be punished if he goes to the polling centers carrying a fire arm, according to Article 30 of the law.

(Source / 27.11.2016)

Kuwait: ISIS-affiliated Egyptian Terror Cell Targeted U.S. Soldiers

Police cordon off the Imam Sadiq mosque in the Al Sawaber area of Kuwait City after a bomb exploded there following Friday prayers June 26, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Jassim Mohammed

Police cordon off the Imam Sadiq mosque in the Al Sawaber area of Kuwait City after a bomb exploded there following Friday prayers June 26, 2015

Kuwait- Authorities in Kuwait are tracking down details extracted from an arrested group of residents suspected of plotting and leading terror attacks against U.S. soldiers assigned to the country.

A collision between a truck driven by an Egyptian and a vehicle carrying three U.S. soldiers in Kuwait was a “terrorist attack,” not an accident as first thought, the U.S. embassy said.

“U.S. Embassy in Kuwait confirms that what at first appeared to be a routine traffic accident involving three deployed U.S. military personnel… was in fact an attempted terrorist attack,” the mission said in a statement posted on its website.

The statement said the attack took place on Thursday and that the U.S. soldiers escaped unhurt.

The soldiers also rescued the Egyptian driver when his truck caught fire, it said.

The Kuwaiti interior ministry said on Saturday that authorities arrested the Egyptian driver and found with him a hand-written note in which he had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

It also said that the driver, identified as Ibrahim Sulaiman, 28, also carried a belt and material suspected of being explosives.

Sulaiman told investigators that he supported the group and believed that its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi should be the head of all Muslims.

He said that he had been using the Internet to follow the killing operations and the explosions carried out by the group, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Monday.

Sulaiman said that his attempts to learn how to make an explosive belt from the internet had failed as he did not have the required items.

Kuwaiti authorities announced in July they had dismantled three ISIS cells plotting attacks, including a suicide bombing against a Shi’ite mosque and against an interior ministry target.

An ISIS-linked suicide bomber had killed 26 worshippers in June last year when he blew himself up in a mosque.

The U.S. embassy said it was not aware of specific, credible threats against private U.S. citizens in Kuwait at this time.

But it warned that the attack serves as a reminder to maintain a high level of attentiveness, advising U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert.

(Source / 10.10.2016)

Kuwait mourns victims of Friday mosque attack

Kuwait blast

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the bloody explosion that rocked a Shia mosque in Kuwait’s capital.

The fatal attack took place during Friday’s prayers at the Shiite-affiliated Imam Al-Sadeq mosque, killing at least 27 people and wounding 227 others.

A group calling itself “Najd Province” [believed to be affiliated with ISIS]claimed responsibility of the attack. The same group said it had carried out two bombing attacks on Shi mosques in Saudi Arabi late on May where more than two dozen were killed.

A statement posted by pro-ISIS social media accounts boasted the offensive against what they called ‘Temple of the Rejectionists”, a derogatory term used by the extremist Sunni group to describe Shia Muslims.

The perpetrator of the massacre was identified as Abu Suleiman Al-Muwahed.

“The worshippers were on Sujood [kneeling]when the suicide bomber walked in the detonated his explosive belt. He looked in his 20s, I saw him with my own eyes”, said MP Khalil Al-Salih who happened to be at the Imam Sadiq mosque during the attack.

That a suicide bomber blows himself up among a congregation of worshippers during Friday prayers in the Holy month of Ramadan has been denounced by the majority of Muslims worldwide.

Immediately after the fatal blast, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited the damaged mosque, along with the speaker of Kuwaiti parliament who called the cabinet for an urgent meeting.

Abu Suleiman Al-Muwahid is believed to be the bomber

Abu Suleiman Al-Muwahid is believed to be the bomber

The cabinet declared Saturday an official day of mourning for the victims.

The bomber just seconds before detonating his explosives

The bomber just seconds before detonating his explosives

(Source / 27.06.2015)

Kuwait to boycott 50 companies over role in illegal Israeli settlements

Direct action by Palestinian activists in the Sha'ar Binyamin settlement, West Bank

Direct action by Palestinian activists in the Sha’ar Binyamin settlement, West Bank

The government of Kuwait has announced that it will not deal with 50 companies due to their role in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory in a move being welcomed by campaigners as a landmark success for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The blacklisted companies include some of the top corporate targets of the BDS movement, such as Volvo, Heidelberg Cement, Dexia, Pizzarotti, Alstom as well as Veolia. Veolia was recently excluded from a $750m contract, and “all future contracts,” by Kuwaiti authorities over its role in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project and other projects that serve illegal Israeli settlements.

The blacklisted companies are expected to be excluded from contracts worth billions of dollars, especially if other Arab countries take similar steps.

According to media reports, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce and Industry is also investigating the Kuwaiti operations of G4S, the British security company that secures Israeli military checkpoints and colonies and helps Israel run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are tortured, with a view to cancelling its license to operate if it does not terminate its participation in Israeli violations of international law.

Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the largest coalition of Palestinian trade unions, parties, NGOs and popular committees that leads the global BDS movement, said:

“This landmark decision means that international companies will now pay an even heavier price for participating in Israeli violations of international law.

“As European banks and pension funds continue to divest from Israel’s occupation and companies such as Veolia and G4S lose billions of dollars as a result of sustained, effective grassroots campaigning, many firms will now be wondering whether supporting Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid is good for business,” said Shuaibi.

Many European governments have taken steps to discourage firms from having economic links to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, but this is the first time a government has decided to boycott international companies over their role in illegal Israeli settlements.

The Kuwaiti move, which follows lobbying by the Palestinian BDS National Committee and its partners in Kuwait, implements a decision of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), taken at a summit of foreign ministers at the height of the Israeli massacre in Gaza in August, to “impose political and economic sanctions on Israel, and boycott the corporations that operate in the colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory.”

The Arab Summit of 2006 in Khartoum unanimously called for punitive measures against the companies, including Veolia and Alstom, involved in Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem.

The BNC has been working closely with BDS Kuwait since 2010 on advocating for accountability measures against international corporations that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights.

Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement and a member of the BNC secretariat, commented on this unprecedented BDS victory saying, “We warmly welcome this important decision in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination, and we urge the Kuwaiti government to implement it in full, including by cancelling any existing contracts with the blacklisted companies, as well as others that are also complicit, and ensuring that state money is not invested in any company, such as G4S, that enables Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and international law.”

“In the wake of Israel’s massacre in Gaza, which was only made possible with the support of international governments and companies, we urge all governments, especially Arab League and OIC members, to impose sanctions on Israel and take action against the complicit corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation and crimes,” added Barghouti.

International companies that participate in Israel’s violations of international law have faced increasing pressure as a result of BDS campaigning in recent years.

Veolia recently announced that it intends to sell off large parts of its business in Israel after boycott campaigns cost the company more than $23bn – not counting Veolia’s latest losses in Kuwait — in lost potential contracts, although the French multinational will still remain involved in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail Project.

British security giant G4S has pledged to end some aspects of its involvement in torture-ridden Israel’s prison system and checkpoints after trade unions, NGOs, universities and other public bodies cancelled contracts with the company.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in June to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard over their role in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

In January, Dutch pension giant PGGM announced it was divesting from five Israeli banks due to their support for illegal Israeli settlements. In February, it emerged that the sovereign fund of Luxembourg had taken a similar step, excluding nine Israeli banks and firms from its portfolio. In the months that followed, banks and pension funds in Norway, the Netherlands, the US and Denmark made similar announcements.

Notes

  1. French multinational Veolia helps to operate the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail that facilitates the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and owns a landfill site in an illegal Israeli settlement
    http://www.whoprofits.org/company/veolia-environnement
    http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/victories
  2. Swedish multinational Volvo provides heavy machinery used for the demolition of Palestinian houses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, construction of Israeli settlements and construction of the illegal apartheid Wall
    http://www.whoprofits.org/company/volvo-group-ab-volvo
  3. German firm Heidelberg Cement operates quarries in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank
    http://www.whoprofits.org/company/heidelberg-cement
  4. Belgian bank Dexia Israel has been giving long-term loans and other financial services to municipalities of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories
    http://www.whoprofits.org/company/dexia-group
  5. Italian firm Pizzarotti is assisting with the construction of an illegal Israeli railway that passes through illegally occupied Palestinian territory
    http://www.whoprofits.org/company/impresa-pizzarotti-c
  6. For more information on European banks divesting from Israeli or international companies that participate in Israeli violations of international law, see
    http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/adri-nieuwhof/investing-israeli-settlements-continues-cycle-violence-desmond-tutu

(Source / 01.11.2014)

Kuwait boycotts international companies working with Israel in the occupied territories

Kuwaiti flag

The Palestinian Ministry of Trade and Industry has opened a legal investigation to determine which companies deal with Israel in the occupied territories at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after it had been informed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that the British-based multinational security services company G4S, which works for Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, is suspected to have branches in Kuwait, Al-Quds newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, sources told the newspaper that Kuwait’s Ministry of Commerce has asked the relevant departments to check if G4S has a license to operate in Kuwait and to immediately notify it to stop dealing with Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, or else the company’s license will be cancelled and it will be prevented it from operating in Kuwait.

Sources also noted that Kuwait’s law number 21 of the year 46 states that Israeli products must be boycotted and prohibits dealing with Israeli companies, stipulating that any company that violates this law or deals with a banned entity will be punished.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce has recently ended its cooperation with 50 European companies because of their activities in the settlements built on the occupied territories of 1967. This decision reflects the official position of the specialised committees in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, in response to the important popular and parliamentary pressures that have been pushing in this direction for four years in coordination with the National Boycott Committee. Recently, the opportunities for having similar positions in different parts of the Arab world have been increasing, which will strongly encourage the economic boycott of these companies on the global level.

Al-Quds reported that the Municipality of Kuwait decided earlier to exclude French company Veolia from a huge contract for solid waste treatment, valued at $750 million, because of its involvement in Israeli projects contrary to international law. It is also “excluding Veolia from any future projects,” following an appeal from the National Boycott Committee.

The committee appealed to the government and the National Assembly in Kuwait to exclude Veolia because “of its involvement in a number of Israeli projects including the infamous project ‘Jerusalem tram’, which connects the illegal settlements in Jerusalem, an act that is considered a flagrant violation of international law and Palestinian human rights. The Arab summit conference, which was held in Khartoum in 2006, condemned the project as part of Israel’s colonial scheme in Jerusalem, and called for taking punitive measures against the two French companies involved in the project: Veolia and Alstom.”

(Source / 23.10.2014)

Kuwait authorities exclude Veolia from $750m contract

Photo credit: Adri Nieuwhof

Occupied Palestine, 29 September 2014 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) warmly welcomes the decision by the Kuwait City Municipality exclude the French company Veolia from a huge solid waste management contract, valued at $750 million, citing the BNC appeal to that affect. Basing its decision on Veolia’s complicity in Israeli projects that violate international law, the municipality also decided to exclude Veolia from “all future projects.”

According to reliable sources in Kuwait, following this humiliating defeat, Veolia was compelled to withdraw from a tender for a project to expand the “Um Al-Haiman” waste water treatment station after qualifying for it. The project is valued at about $1.5 billion.

Even before this total loss of contracts worth $2.25B, Veolia had already lost or had to pull out of tenders worth approximately $24 billion, mainly in the UK, Sweden, Ireland and the U.S.

Veolia has been forced to admit that the campaign against it is having a major impact and recently announced that it intends to sell off its Israeli  water, waste, and energy businesses, having already sold off its share in companies that operate bus lines through illegal Israeli settlements. The campaign against Veolia shall continue until it ends all aspects of its participation in Israeli violations of international law, including by withdrawing from the Jerusalem Light Rail and the Tovlan landfill, two infrastructure projects for illegal Israeli settlements.

The BNC appealed a few months ago to Kuwait’s Government and parliament to exclude Veolia because of its involvement in a number of Israeli projects that blatantly violate international law and the Palestinian human rights, including the “Jerusalem Light Rail” that connects the illegal settlements in and around occupied Jerusalem with the city.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had also called upon Kuwait’s Government “to boycott and exclude Veolia” because of “complicity with the Israeli occupation in violating international humanitarian law, especially in occupied Jerusalem.”

Zaid Shuaibi, the BNC’s Arab Affairs Coordinator stated that, “Following Israel’s latest massacre in Gaza, it is incumbent upon all of us to intensify our BDS campaigns to hold accountable by further isolating it in all fields.”

Shuaibi added, “Complicit international corporations, such as Veolia, G4S and HP, that enable Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid must pay a price for profiting from Israel’s occupation and human rights violations. They must be excluded from public and private contracts in the Arab world as well as in every country that upholds international law and supports the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.”

This latest BDS victory against Veolia in Kuwait is seen by observers as “the tip of the BDS iceberg” in the Arab world.

(Source / 29.09.2014)

Kuwait releases detained cleric suspected of financing militants

KUWAIT: Kuwaiti authorities on Thursday released a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric they had detained the previous day after the United States put him on a sanctions list over suspicions he funded militants in Iraq and Syria, his lawyer told Reuters.

Hajjaj al-Ajmi, who had been detained at Kuwait airport on his arrival from Qatar, was released without charge, the lawyer said.

In their push to crack down on financing of militants in Syria and Iraq, Kuwaiti authorities also briefly detained another prominent Muslim cleric on Sunday, Shafi al-Ajmi, who belongs to the same extended tribe as Hajjaj al-Ajmi.

Shafi al-Ajmi was later released without charge.

Kuwait has been one of the biggest humanitarian donors to Syrian refugees through the United Nations, but it has also struggled to control unofficial fund-raising for opposition groups in Syria by private individuals.

The Kuwaiti government, an ally of the United States, has stepped up its monitoring of individuals and charities suspected of collecting donations for militants linked to al Qaeda in Syria and in Iraq.

Last Friday, the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on six people suspected of financing Islamist militants, including two Kuwaitis, in a move aimed at weakening Islamic State and al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Nusra Front.

(Source / 21.08.2014)

Kuwait leaders huddle ahead of opposition rally

Kuwaiti security forces arrive at the scene as tires are burning during a demonstration of supporters of Kuwaiti opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak on July 6, 2014
KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Kuwait’s emir consulted with his crown prince and prime minister after four nights of clashes over the arrest of a prominent opposition leader ahead of a mass rally later Sunday.

“The prime minister briefed the emir and the crown prince of the events that violate the constitution and the law,” said an official statement cited by the state news agency KUNA.

Police have used tear gas and stun grenades against demonstrators, and the interior ministry has vowed to deal firmly with unlicensed gatherings.

An interior ministry statement blamed demonstrators for the violence, charging that unidentified men threw a petrol bomb at the jail where opposition leader Mussalam al-Barrak has been held for the past five days.

Opposition groups plan a huge protest march later Sunday to the courts in Kuwait City to press for the release of Barrak, a former MP whose trial is due to begin on Monday.

The public prosecutor on Wednesday detained Barrak for 10 days pending trial on charges of insulting the judiciary and slandering the head of the supreme judicial council, Faisal al-Marshed.

The KUNA statement said the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, called on everyone “to comply to preserve the country’s security and stability.”

The interior ministry said police arrested a number of protesters, while opposition activists said around 25 people have been rounded up since Wednesday.

The opposition has denounced the legal action against Barrak as unlawful and “politically motivated,” but the emir on Sunday strongly defended the judiciary.

At a public rally last month, Barrak alleged that former senior officials, including ruling family members, had stolen tens of billions of dollars from public funds and engaged in money laundering.

He also criticized the judiciary.

The scandal was later linked to claims that the same officials were seen in video footage plotting a coup.

Those allegations were made in a lawsuit filed last month by Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, a senior ruling family member and former energy minister.

Sheikh Ahmad was himself questioned as a witness on Thursday.

Most opposition groups are not represented in parliament after boycotting a July 2013 election in protest at Kuwait’s amended electoral law.

(Source / 06.07.2014)

Kuwait Emir Starts Iran Visit

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah starts a visit to Iran on Sunday, in the latest sign of improved ties between the Islamic republic and Gulf Arab neighbors since President Hasan Rouhani took office last year.

The emir will be accompanied by Kuwait’s ministers for foreign affairs, finance, oil and trade during the two-day visit, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.Kuwait Emir

He is the second ruler in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council to visit Iran since Rouhani took office in August. The first was Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said of Oman.

The visit comes after Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s biggest country, said last month it was ready to engage in talks with Iran to achieve regional stability.

 “The GCC states and Iran have to acknowledge the influence of each other,” Sami al-Faraj, head of Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, said in a phone interview.

“We are not against Iran’s influence in the region if it’s constructive.” 

(Source / 01.06.2014) 

HRW slams Kuwaiti jail, deportation of online activist

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Human Rights Watch on Sunday condemned as “shocking” a Kuwaiti court’s five-year jail sentence followed by deportation against an online rights activist for criticizing the emirate’s ruler on Twitter.

A lower court imposed the sentence on Abdullah Fairouz Abdullah Abd al-Kareem, 30, on January 9 for posting comments on the microblogging website deemed offensive to the emir.

The court also ordered Kareem to be deported after serving the jail term although he has the right to Kuwaiti citizenship.

The court acknowledged that Kareem had won a final court ruling over his right but he has so far not obtained the citizenship card and thus the court treated him as a foreigner.

Under Kuwaiti law, foreign residents are deported by courts if they receive jail sentences for any serious crime.

Kareem’s mother is Egyptian and his father Kuwaiti. It is not clear what passport he carried when he won the right to Kuwaiti citizenship.

“The judgement against Kareem is shocking,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“We hope that the exile sentence is not a new strategy by the prosecution to chill political commentary in Kuwait,” he said.

Kareem is not a member of the Kuwaiti opposition but a prominent rights activist.

The New York-based HRW said that Kuwaiti authorities should drop the charges and not contest Kareem’s already lodged appeal.

“Since a political crisis in June 2012, Kuwaiti authorities have ramped up efforts to limit free expression, with courts sentencing at least 18 politicians, online activists, and journalists to prison terms for ‘offending’ the emir,” HRW said.

“Kuwait has made clear through the recent string of cases that it is willing to trample on people’s rights to protect the emir from criticism,” it said.

(Source / 26.01.2014)