Stomping Out Vote Buying in Kuwait

Muslim Matters

Stomping Out Vote Buying in Kuwait

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

IRAN WHERE IS MY VOTE2By definition the word democracy means, “A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.” In Democratic nations like America, for example, the ability to vote is a right that was especially hard fought by women and minorities. Voting for elected officials is what separates democratic nations from dictatorships. So what happens in a country where wealthy politicians pay for votes and the power of the people is rendered useless? The result is that undeserving politicians are put into a position of power that neither they deserve or are morally fit to serve.

One such country, which has grappled with vote buying for years, is the tiny gulf State of Kuwait. The country is set to hold parliamentary elections this February and has taken proactive measures to ensure that vote buying does not take place. In years past, some wealthy politicians in Kuwait have gone to great lengths to buy as many votes as they can. Some of the most common tactics used to entice votes include holding lavish banquets for voters featuring food prepared by international chefs, passing out gift bags filled with expensive watches and perfumes or simply handing out wads of cash. While vote buying has always been illegal in Kuwait, it has been a difficult law to enforce.

This year, however, the Kuwaiti government is hitting back at crooked politicians with its own wad of cold hard cash. The Kuwait Transparency Society has announced that there is a 5,000 KD (US $17,969) reward for anyone who reports a politician engaging in vote buying. In a statement the society revealed that it expects the reward will deter vote buying and the threat of prosecution will further ensure a fair parliamentary election. 

According to recent reports, approximately 361 Kuwaiti politicians will run in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This year also shows more women participating in the democratic process with an estimated 29 female candidates vying for one of the 50 seats in parliament. Kuwaiti men, however, lead the candidates roster with approximately 332 males running for office. More than 400,000 Kuwaiti citizens are eligible to vote. Yet in light of recent turmoil between the government and protestors, some political commentators expect only half of eligible voters to cast their ballots.


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