Boycott-hit voting under way in Kuwait

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Voting is under way in Kuwait to pick a new parliament for the second time in 10 months amid sharp divisions between the ruling family-led government and an opposition boycotting the polls over a change to the electoral law. Polling opened at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) on Saturday and closes 12 hours later, with the first results expected after midnight (2100 GMT) as ballot papers in Kuwait are still counted manually. Opposition groups, ranging from hardline Islamists to Western-leaning liberals, have bitterly denounced a decree in October by Kuwait’s emir to change the balloting system. They claim it will make it easier for officials to influence the outcome. Opposition supporters, numbering in the tens of thousands, took to the streets of Kuwait City on Friday in a peaceful demonstration calling on voters to stay home during the election day. Friday’s protests were among several staged against the government for unilaterally amending the electoral law. In previous elections, voters were able to pick up to a maximum of four candidates; that number was reduced by the amendment to just one. Each of Kuwait’s five constituencies elects 10 legislators. Analysts see little hope the election, the fifth since mid-2006, will bring political stability to the Gulf state which has seen sharp divisions between the ruling family-led government and the opposition.