About 305 candidates, including 22 women, are competing for 50 seats in parliament in five constituencies.
Kuwaitis votes in what observers describe as the country’s most inclusive elections in 10 years, with some opposition groups ending a boycott after the Gulf country’s royal rulers pledged not to meddle in parliament.
Thursday’s polls are the sixth in 10 years and reflect the repeated political crises that grip Kuwait.
The National Assembly of Kuwait is the freest in the Arabian Gulf and consists of 50 elected members and a cabinet appointed by the country’s leader.
The elections come after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.
Kuwait, which borders Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and is one of the world’s largest oil exporters, has held 18 elections since 1962.
But when he dissolved the parliament, Sheikh Meshal promised that the authorities would not interfere in the elections or the new parliament.
“We will not interfere in the people’s choices for their representatives, nor will we interfere in the choices of the next National Assembly in electing its president or its committees,” the Crown Prince said.
“Parliament will be in charge of its decisions and we will not support one faction at the expense of another. We will be the same distance from everyone.”
Political analyst Fahd al-Habini believes that the majority of candidates running for office depend on their social status and reputation, not on their political agendas and programs.
“Social status is the foundation for the beginning of a candidate’s career,” he told Al Jazeera. “It is not essential to have different political agendas, as the environment from which the election work comes depends on the influence of the candidates and who they are.”
Vote buy verified
Thursday’s vote also comes after the country’s emir last year issued an amnesty for political opponents who had been tried on various charges.
Opposition figures have stayed out of the election for the past 10 years, accusing the executive authorities of meddling in the workings of parliament.
About 305 candidates, including 22 women, are competing for 50 seats in five constituencies. Since the only female politician lost her seat in December 2020, Parliament has been all-male.
Women represent 51.2 percent of the 795,920 voters. About 70 percent of the population of about 4.2 million are expatriates.
All contenders run as individuals because political parties are banned in Kuwait.
While the last election was affected by anti-coronavirus measures, this time the candidates have been able to open election offices and run live lists. Security forces have stepped up their surveillance of vote buying.
The election results are expected to be announced on Friday.
Kuwait was the first country in the Gulf region to establish an elected parliament in 1963.
Several opposition MPs went on strike in protest at delays in parliamentary sessions and the lack of a new government. A major source of friction is parliamentarians’ demand that royal family ministers be held accountable for corruption.