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All these crises are in Kuwait

May 15, 2024 at 7:30 am

A swearing-in ceremony held for Kuwait’s new emir, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad al-Sabah at National Assembly, on December 20, 2023 in Kuwait City, Kuwait [Jaber Abdulkhaleq – Anadolu Agency]

Some may have been surprised by the decision of the Emir of Kuwait, Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to dissolve the National Assembly (Parliament), when it had only been a month and a few days since its members were elected in the early elections held on 4 April. However, the decision is consistent with what political life in Kuwait has witnessed in recent years, as Kuwait has come to live under the influence of an equation in which the nation’s assemblies are repeatedly dissolved, and early elections are repeatedly held. This time, the decision to dissolve the Council was accompanied by the issuance of decisions requiring the partial or complete suspension of some articles of the Constitution, in a step that is the third since parliamentary life was introduced in Kuwait in 1962.

The decision to dissolve was made a few days before the beginning of the Assembly’s work, and it was not possible to form a new Kuwaiti government, after the National Assembly refused to cooperate with the Prime Minister-designate, due to none of the Assembly members agreeing to participate in the government, where one member must participate and also remain a member of the Assembly, as stipulated in the Constitution. In addition, representatives demanded cancelling the appointment of the Prime Minister and appointing someone else, which was considered a reduction in the powers and rights of the Emir of the country. However, the direct reason was what was considered an infringement on the powers of the Emir of the country, and committing a clear violation of what the Constitution stipulates. This was embodied, according to what the Emir himself confirmed, by the threat and intimidation, issued by one of the members of the Council to submit individuals for interrogation if one of the ministers returns to his portfolio. Another objected to the nomination someone, forgetting, either ignorantly or intentionally, that choosing the prime minister and the government members is the exclusive constitutional right of the head of State, that no one must encroach on.

READ: Kuwait’s Emir dissolves parliament, suspends some constitution articles

The dissolution of the Assembly, once again, highlights the contradictions of the Kuwaiti political scene, in that it brings its crises back to square one and opens the door to discussions about the extent of the expected change if new parliamentary elections are called. This is because the repeated dissolution of the Assembly and the resignation of the government indicate the need to reconsider the mechanisms and practices followed in the political system, specifically, in the nature of the relationship between the legislative and executive authorities, which leads to achieving a breakthrough in the tense relations between them. The political crisis, which has intensified recently, has led to a successive series of confusions and crises that have hit Kuwait on various levels, and its intensity has increased as a result of the high frequency of ongoing disputes and conflicts between the governments appointed by the Emir of Kuwait and the directly elected parliaments. This has cast a dark shadow on political life in Kuwait, hindered economic reform efforts, disrupted development projects needed by Kuwaitis and contributed to the failure of attempts to diversify the Kuwaiti economy, which is completely dependent on oil revenues.

What we found, this time, is that the matter did not stop with the dissolution of the National Assembly, but rather was accompanied by the issuance of decisions that decided to suspend the work of some articles of the Constitution, which raises a lot of speculation about the future of the chronic political crisis in the country. Perhaps the question that arises is: What next after the Emir of Kuwait dissolved the National Assembly again? Will new elections be called in the foreseeable future, or will the dissolution of the National Assembly continue until a ‘study of democratic practice in the country’ is completed and presented to the Emir ‘to take appropriate steps’ that can prevent a repeat of the process of dissolving the National Assembly and then re-electing it? In recent years, Kuwait has witnessed a repetition of this equation, and its outcome was zero, meaning that it did not produce anything different in the tense relationship between the government and the Assembly. The problem in Kuwait is that the Constitution requires the formation of a mixed government that combines democratic and authoritarian characteristics and adopts a system consisting of a mixture of elements of a presidential system and a parliamentary system, within an interesting and strange consensus. The Constitution requires calling for new elections within two months from the date of issuing the decision to dissolve Parliament and, therefore, the next stage will reveal whether the Emir of Kuwait will decide to go again to hold new elections, or whether he will focus on amending the articles of the Constitution, making it a document that responds to the requirements and variables of life through its compatibility with the social, political, economic, legal and moral conditions prevailing in society. This is in addition to its compatibility with the new circumstances in terms of absorbing them to continue to be a tool that governs the reality of society and its formations, and in a way that ensures changing some of its articles to overcome the legal problems that caused the current political crisis. As well as the Emir’s approval, this requires the approval of a third of the members of the National Assembly.

READ: Kuwait’s emir forms new govern’t with 13 ministers in Cabinet

Perhaps the decisions issued carry indications that the political crisis in Kuwait, which has escalated in intensity in the last two years, is moving towards calm and moderation, given the consensus surrounding the need to resolve it rather than manage it. This is because it harmed the interests of the country and its people, and disrupted many privileges that both authorities should have fulfilled. The problem inherent in this crisis is linked to Kuwait’s state of paralysis in various political, social and legal fields, which hinders the adoption of the required laws, and the enactment of new ones, in order to manage people’s lives and meet their needs, in addition to considering State issues, especially urgent ones, such as wasting public funds, widespread corruption, sectarianism, extremism, among others.

The Emir of Kuwait believes that the turmoil in the political scene in the country has reached an intolerable stage and that the crisis witnessed in previous years encouraged the spread of corruption, reaching most of the state’s facilities, and even reaching the security and economic institutions. It has even affected the judicial level, which is considered a haven for people to protect their rights and freedoms. He also mentioned the existence of individuals accused of corruption, and vowed to hold them accountable, while confirming no one is above the law because the law is above all. Given all of this, will the upcoming period witness the beginning of a different phase in Kuwait?

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This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby 13 May, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.