(Reuters) - Kuwait is holding parliamentary elections on Saturday, its fifth poll since June 2006. Here is a look at the process:
* Kuwait has one of the most open democratic systems in the Gulf. Its National Assembly (Majlis al-Umma) has legislative powers and can summon ministers for questioning. The emir however has the final say in state affairs and can veto laws and dissolve parliament. The head of state, from the 250-year-old Al-Sabah dynasty, also appoints the prime minister who, in turn, appoints the 15-member cabinet.
* Voters will choose the 50 members of the National Assembly who are supposed to serve four-year terms. In practice, recent parliaments have rarely lasted that long - a series of them have been dissolved during a long-running power struggle between the appointed cabinet and elected MPs.
* There were 279 candidates registered by a deadline last week - a number which could change if some disqualified applicants are allowed to run. Most have not stood before. Established opposition politicians are boycotting the election in protest over changes to the voting rules.
* Thousands have staged regular demonstrations since late October against the emir’s emergency decree reducing the number of votes allowed per citizen from four to one. The opposition says the new rules are an attempt to skew the election in favor of pro-government candidates. They say the four-vote system helped candidates form political allegiances during campaigns by recommending supporters cast their additional ballots for allies. The emir says the old system had flaws and the changes are for the sake of Kuwait’s security and stability.
* All Kuwaitis, male and female, can vote once they reach the age of 21. Nearly 423,000 people are eligible to vote out of a population of nearly 1.2 million nationals. The number appears low as Kuwait has a relatively young population. Around two thirds of Kuwait’s inhabitants are foreign nationals. Voting runs from 0800-2000 local time (0500-1700 GMT) on December 1. Kuwait is divided up into five electoral districts, each of them with 10 seats up for grabs. No minimum turnout is required.
Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Andrew Heavens