KUWAIT CITY - Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in the Gulf emirate's second parliamentary election in eight months with a less than moderate turnout after the opposition urged a boycott.

Polling began slowly in the morning but increased slightly later to drop again at around noon.

Turnout in some districts was under 20 per cent by 2:00 pm (1100 GMT), according to state-run Kuwait Television. Turnout was higher in some constituencies, especially in tribal areas, but no official figures were provided.

Polling stations close at 1700 GMT, but the first results are not expected until after midnight (2100 GMT) as ballot papers are still counted manually.

Information Minister Sheikh Salman Humoud al-Sabah said after visiting a polling station in Jahra west of Kuwait City that turnout was high.

Besides opposition calls for a boycott, the sweltering heat of around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), combined with Muslim fasting, also apparently contributed to a low turnout.

It was the second time the opposition had called for a boycott in protest at an electoral law that it says enables the ruling Al-Sabah family-controlled government to manipulate the outcome.

The law was ruled legal in June by the constitutional court, even though it dissolved parliament on procedural flaws and ordered Saturday's election.

"I just hope this parliament completes its (four-year) term," said civil aviation employee Bassam Eid, after voting in Al-Qasia. "We are frustrated at the repeated dissolution of the house," Eid told AFP.

The last two parliaments were dissolved by the constitutional court on procedural grounds, while previous parliaments were dissolved by the emir.

"I am really concerned at the turn of events in the country as there will be no development without political stability which we hope will be achieved after this election," Dr Jawad Abulhassan told AFP.

Pensioner Umm Mohammad said she hoped for an end to the disputes plaguing the country, but was not optimistic.

"We earnestly hope to see political stability in the country after this poll... We are still afraid that this might not happen," she said at a polling station reserved for women in Jabriya, south of Kuwait City.

Some groups that boycotted the last election - notably the liberal National Democratic Alliance and some of the emirate's powerful tribes - did take part on Saturday. But only a few opposition members were among the 300 hopeful candidates.

They include eight women, the lowest number since women won political rights in 2005.

Around 30 Arab election observers visited polling stations and were assisted by monitors from the Kuwait Transparency Society.

The opposition failed to mirror the support it mobilised ahead of the last election, but has remained adamant that it will not take part in a "corrupted" political system.

Just days before polling day, the authorities arrested at least four candidates and dozens of their campaign staff on suspicion of attempted vote-buying.

Although Kuwait has the Gulf's oldest elected parliament, all key government posts are held by members of the Al-Sabah family which has ruled the country without challenge for more than 250 years.

Analysts see little hope the election will bring political stability to the emirate, which has been rocked by lingering disputes since mid-2006, stalling development despite an abundance of petrodollars. Of Kuwait's population of 3.9 million, just 31 per cent are citizens and of that 1.23 million only 440,000 are eligible to vote.

The voting age is 21 and Kuwaitis in the police or army are barred from taking part.

The OPEC member says it sits on 10 per cent of global crude reserves and pumps around 3.0 million barrels of oil per day. Thanks to high prices, the emirate has amassed around $400 billion in assets over the past decade.