Kuwaitis Seek New Order To End Political Chaos


Quite simply, we need a new constitution that would transform the country into a true constitutional state," Saif Al-Hajeri of the opposition Ummah Party told a symposium.

The Kuwaiti system has often been described as a "half democracy" as political parties are banned. The Ummah Party, despite not being recognized officially, fields independent candidates in elections. The symposium was called by Tanami, a private group, to discuss the reasons for continued political wrangling in the country and propose solutions.

Kuwait became the first Arab state in the Gulf to introduce a constitution and embrace parliamentary democracy in 1962, but the past 47 years have been marred by many disputes that led to the dissolution of parliament six times. Last week, HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah dissolved the 10-month-old parliament and called for snap polls within two months in a bid to end years of political feuding that have stalled development.

The current constitution is not adequate and does not accommodate political development in Kuwait," secretary general of the Islamic Constitutional Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, Mohammad Al-Dallal said. "We need to review the authority of HH the Amir and powers of the people in the constitution… We also need to double parliament’s membership from 50 MPs," he said.

Although elected MPs enjoy extensive legislative and monitoring powers, the house has no say in forming the cabinet, which by tradition is headed by a senior member of the ruling Al-Sabah family. A government is not required to win a vote of confidence from parliament and most ministers are not usually elected, although they enjoy the same voting rights as MPs.

Lawmakers can grill individual ministers and vote them out of office, but they have no power to bring down the entire cabinet. Despite the ban on parties, about a dozen liberal, nationalist and Islamist groups operate as de facto parties. Candidates contest polls on an individual basis. Independent political activist Mohammad Al-Jassem blamed the political impasse in Kuwait on the "rejection of the ruling family to accept popular monitoring and participation in government.

The Al-Sabah family has ruled Kuwait for more than 250 years, and its authority has seldom been challenged. Besides HH the Amir, HH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, the ruling family also holds the key cabinet portfolios of defense, interior, foreign affairs, oil and information. There have been calls in Kuwait for the adoption of a full parliamentary system with political parties recognized and the party that wins an election forming a government headed by a non-royal.


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