Election date may change – Govt puts polls on hold for court explanation

Kuwait Times
Fecha de publicación: 
24 Jun 2013

he Cabinet yesterday put the election process on hold “as a precautionary measure” while the country waits for the constitutional court to explain its verdict issued last week amid expectation the election date could change. The constitutional court, whose rulings are final, is scheduled to provide legal interpretations for its verdict which ordered the National Assembly dissolved and confirmed the controversial single-vote amendment. The Cabinet said after it weekly meeting that as the court is set to explain its verdict tomorrow, it has decided to cease all procedures for the implementation of the verdict including the decree inviting voters for elections which opens the way for candidates to start registering.

The Cabinet’s move came as more conflicting interpretations from legal and constitutional experts were expressed in the past few days, especially to whether the 2009 Assembly should be reinstated or not in addition to the correct legal procedures the Cabinet should take after the ruling. One of the most interesting views on the court verdict was expressed yesterday by prominent constitutional expert Mohammad Al-Moqate in an article published in Al-Qabas newspaper. Moqate stressed that the court ruling meant that the 2009 Assembly must be revived after the court ruled that the Dec 1, 2012 election was “null and void”.

He said that the 2009 Assembly was dissolved for the second time on Oct 7, 2012. Under Kuwaiti law, fresh election must be held within 60 days and if they are not held, the dissolved Assembly is automatically revived. Moqate added that the polls were held on Dec 1 last year in accordance with the law but were nullified by the court on June 16, which means as if the election had never been held and the Assembly never existed. As a result, he said, no “legitimate” election had been held within the stipulated 60 days and accordingly, the dissolved 2009 Assembly is automatically reinstated and should be functional.

Similar views had been expressed but legal opinions contrary to this were also published, leaving huge ambiguity over the constitutional court ruling. This has made member of the scrapped Assembly Abdulhameed Dashti to submit a request for the court to explain its ruling and the court set tomorrow as the date to respond. Dashti said that unlike a similar ruling issued by the same court a year ago, the new verdict did not call for reviving the Assembly that was elected in 2009 and dissolved in Dec 2011 after street protests by the opposition.

Fresh elections were later held in Feb 2012 but the election process nullified on June 20, 2012 by the constitutional court which also ordered the Assembly to be dissolved and that the 2009 Assembly be reinstated. The 2009 Assembly was legally revived but could not hold any meetings because MPs boycotted its sessions which forced the government to recommend to HH the Amir to dissolve it and this what exactly happened in October. Fresh elections were  held on Dec 1 last year.

The court explanation could affect the date of the election which has been set by the Cabinet for July 25. If the court says that the 2009 Assembly must be reinstated, then the election date will be changed as the government will have to dissolve it and call for fresh polls and this will take time. The date is expected to change even if the court says there is no need to reinstate the 2009 Assembly as Kuwait’s election law stipulates that registration of candidates must start at least one month before the election. Candidate registrations can start only after the Amiri decree inviting voters to elect a new Assembly is published in the official gazette Kuwait Al-Youm. Based on the court’s explanation, the election may be delayed for a few days only or may be delayed for months if the court says the 2009 Assembly must be given a new life.

In another development, the court of appeals yesterday rejected a demand by former opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak to suspend his trial until the supreme court rules if his case should be sent back to the lower court or not. The court then set Sept 8 as the date for the next hearing and lifted a travel ban against him. The lower court had sentenced Barrak to five years in jail and the verdict was scrapped by the appeals court for illegal procedures but the appeals court decided to conduct the trial itself, which Barrak challenged before the supreme court.