Manama: Kuwait has become the fourth Arab country in as many months to see overwhelming gains for Islamists and dismal losses for liberals in parliamentary elections.
It also saw a new exclusion of women from the 50-seat parliament after none of the 23 women candidates, including the four incumbents, could secure enough votes to win even though women made up around 54% of the voting bloc.
Overall change to the parliament composition over the latest one, which was dissolved in December following bitter clashes with the government, was about 54 per cent as 27 new lawmakers made their way to the green seats.
The Islamists have now 22 seats from the Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood movements as well as independent MPs. "This reflects a regional state of mind following the Islamists' wins in other Arab countries," analysts for Al Aan news said. "It is reflective of the weakness and limitations of the civil society in Kuwait."
However, liberals were, like in the other Arab countries where national elections were held, on a downward spiral and kept only one of the five seats they had in the outgoing parliament.
"Some of the MPs are known for their attacks on other Kuwaitis and for their sectarianism and this could spell trouble," the analysts said.
Mohammad Al Suhaili, a Kuwaiti political analyst, said that the new formation would spell trouble.
"Tribalism and Islamism have proven that they are undisputedly the most significant factors in the elections, way ahead of any other consideration," he said. "There will be numerous clashes between the lawmakers whose backgrounds and orientations sharply contrast as well as standoffs with the government. I do not think that this parliament will go to the full extent of its term. It is way too explosive to remain," the Bahrain-based analyst told Gulf News.
Social media network users have already drawn up the duels they expect to see soon in the parliament, particularly that some of them had clashed during the pre-elections campaigns.
Abdullah Al Shayji, the chairman of the Political Science Department at Kuwait University and specialist in Gulf and US politics, referred to elections day as "a roller coaster with many surprises." "There are no women in the new formation and the liberals have been dramatically decimated while ex pro-government lawmakers and ex-MPs suspected of receiving huge amounts of money in their bank accounts and investigated by the public prosecutor either did not run or simply lost," he told Gulf News.
For Al Shayji, Kuwaitis are in defiant mood and showed the soft side of the Arab Spring.
"The opposition now controls over 30 out of the 50 seats and the government has to read the message clearly. It is obvious that ‘politics as usual' will not work and there is need for productive results. Today, all sides have to accommodate the others."
The opposition is not monolithic and as a loose coalition without much cohesion or unity, there is a high risk that it can be manipulated and penetrated easily, he said.
"Not many Kuwaitis are confident we could break the deadlock and there is a distinct possibility that we go to the polls again by summer," he said.
Social media users spent the first hours after the announcement of the results discussing the merits of the lawmakers, with many attributing the loss by women candidates to the strong presence of conservative forces.
However, for UAE activist Ebtisam Kitbi, Kuwaiti women should have been elected.
"They deserve to be there thanks to their competence, even though none was elected," she said on her Twitter account.
The professor of political sciences at the UAE University stressed that competence was not linked exclusively to a specific gender or that it was duly recognized by the street.
"Competence is not confined to a specific gender and voters do not always make their choice based on the candidates' competence. We would not have George Bush if that was the case," she said.
However, the focus now should not be on winners and losers, but on the performance of the parliament.
"Regardless of who won or lost in the Kuwaiti elections, we do look forward to seeing a parliament that promotes accords and does not cause divisions," she said.
In a message of congratulations to the winners, Prime Minister Shaikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah, on Friday said that the lawmakers should be prepared to shoulder "heavy responsibilities" and to deal with difficult times ahead.
The premier expressed hope that the new members of parliament will fulfill the "aspirations of the people on security, stability, development, prosperity, combating negative acts and bolstering patriotism," Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.