Ramsa - (Kuwait)
Kuwait is organizing legislative elections on Saturday in the absence of the rallies, luxurious banquets and luxurious tents that usually characterize election campaigns in the country, after the authorities banned gatherings for fear of the outbreak of the new Corona virus.
Banquets have always been associated with election campaigns in Kuwait, and they served a variety of dishes such as grilled lamb, rice and sweets on a weekly basis.
The State of Kuwait enjoys an active political life to some extent that differs from what is happening in the other oil-producing Gulf states. It has an elected parliament with legislative powers.
Each of these banquets gathered hundreds, and the election candidates were keen to show their generosity and concern for the electorate.
Fahd Muhammad Al-Mutairi, who owns the "Taiba" restaurant in the Jahra governorate, says he used to prepare banquets for five to eight candidates in each election round in the fourth electoral district.
But this session will not prepare any feast.
"We used to prepare grilled lamb and rice for dinner during the election campaign period, which was extended to about two months, but Corona blew everything up," he added to AFP.
The head of the Kuwaiti Restaurant Association, Fahd Al-Arbash, says that one feast cost between three thousand to seven thousand Kuwaiti dinars (nine thousand dollars to 22 thousand dollars), and the number of attendees reached about two thousand people in areas where members of the largest tribes of the country resided.
Kuwait has so far recorded more than 142,000 cases of the new Corona virus, and 875 deaths.
The biggest loser
It is the first legislative elections to be held in Kuwait since the new Emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, assumed power on September 29.
Al-Arbash believes that restaurants and hospitality companies that set up tents and provide Arabic coffee and dates will be the biggest losers in this election cycle.
He adds, "This season was considered a main driver in natural conditions."
The streets of Kuwait were empty of the normal elections, except for some electoral banners in a number of streets and roads.
The Kuwaiti authorities did not allow the opening of headquarters in the five electoral districts or the organization of any rhetorical festivals for fear of the spread of the virus, while male and female candidates resorted to relying on social media and the media during their election campaigns.
Candidates address voters through tweets on "Twitter" or short video recordings on platforms such as "Snapchat", while others resort to live broadcasts on "Instagram" or to organize election seminars using video calling technology.
Others use media outlets such as paper and electronic newspapers and local television channels to display advertisements for candidates.
Advertising prices range from ten thousand Kuwaiti dinars to fifty thousand for a full month, according to the head of the Kuwaiti Electronic Media Federation Faisal Al-Sawagh.
"Kuwaitis use social media that allowed them to make their voices heard, and provided them with an opportunity to hear clear ideas from the candidates," he added.
The issues dealt with by candidates for the legislative elections in Kuwait are varied, the most important of which are combating corruption, resolving the issue of the Bidun (stateless people living in the desert), developing education, providing job opportunities for youth and housing, in addition to freedom of expression and others.
And many point out that the restrictions imposed by the government will save a lot of money for candidates who this time did not have to rent election headquarters or organize banquets or election rallies.
The candidate in the first constituency, lawyer Ali Al-Ali, notes that "the average amount spent by the candidates reaches one hundred thousand Kuwaiti dinars (327 thousand dollars)."
He says, "It is true that Corona saved us expenses to open electoral headquarters and organize festivals, but the spending increased on the electronic and traditional media that we used to go to while they used to come to our headquarters in the past."
According to Al-Ali, "These exceptional circumstances that restricted the election campaign to the media enhance the chances of winning the young candidates who have been in contact with voters during the past years through social media."
According to a professor of philosophy at Kuwait University, Sheikha Al-Jassim, a candidate for the first electoral district, “The expenses have decreased. I do not need a seat and dinner. ”
But she explains that she needs more effort to "promote ourselves," explaining that she prefers to use Twitter and Instagram to communicate with voters.
“The legislative elections arena this time is social media,” she added, explaining that 70 percent of the work is done through it.
According to Al-Jasem, even if she uses media interviews from television channels or paper newspapers, she must broadcast them on her social media accounts, "otherwise no one can see or follow her."
"Kuwaitis are accustomed to quick things and following up on what excites them," she added, noting that the 30% of the remaining work "depends on our social relationships."