AR EN

Elections of the National Assembly of Kuwaiti.. and the Chances for Political Stability

Monitoring and Analysis Unit
24 Nov 2016
Introduction

Elections of the National Assembly of Kuwait are expected to be held next Saturday November 26, 2016, after the Emir dissolved it last October 16

Elections of the National Assembly of Kuwait are expected to be held next Saturday November 26, 2016, after the Emir dissolved it last October 16, citing the sensitivity of regional circumstances and security challenges and their impact on Kuwait. The majority of the parliamentary opposition is participating in the elections , after its boycott in the last two sessions, because the election law has adopted the one-vote system as a substitute for  the multi-vote system previously applied.

The path of the National Assembly has been marked in recent years by tense relationship with the government, frequent interpellations of ministers and dissolution of it by the Emir more than once, which prompted the Kuwaiti candidate and voter, before observers and analysts, to wonder about the possibility of the return of escalation between government and elected assembly, and the latter's ability to complete its full session.

This paper reviews the process of dissolution of the National Assembly and the blocs participating in the elections and their positions of boycott. It also discusses the impact of this election on the political stability in Kuwait, under the strained circumstances the region experiencing, as well as the needs of the Kuwaiti inside.

About the National Assembly of Kuwait

The National Assembly of Kuwait is considered as a first nucleus of political life in Kuwait, which is regarded as an advanced model as compared to those of Gulf. Although political pluralism is not allowed in its known partisan image, the political currents are present in the public Kuwaiti landscape, leading their roles under different banners and participating in the parliamentary elections effectively.

The National Assembly consists of fifty members elected by live secret universal suffrage, and its normal mandate lasts for four years. Kuwaiti Constitution stipulates that the number of ministers should not exceed one-third of the number of the 50-member deputies (which is not more than 16 ministers). The Assembly selects the president and the vice president in its first session and it has several standing committees, and the law gives them the right to form special committees that report to the Speaker of the Assembly.

The National Assembly has been dissolved ten times over forty years. the Kuwaiti Constitution stipulates that there must be new elections no later than two months from the date of dissolving the National Assembly, otherwise, the dissolved Assembly regain its legitimacy.

A table showing the number of times that Emir of Kuwait and Constitutional Court dissolved the National Assembly with a statement of the main reasons and dissolution authority.

Dissolution Authority

Reason

Year

Time

Emir of

Kuwait

The dissolution was described as unconstitutional, and some articles of the Constitution were suspended because Emir did not call for new elections, according to Article 107.

1976

First

Emir

The dissolution was described as unconstitutional, and some articles of the Constitution were suspended because Emir did not call for new elections, according to Article 107.

1986

Second

Emir

Abuse of constitutional tools by Assembly members.

1999

Third

Emir

Escalation and confrontation between the Assembly and the government in the issues of reducing the number of constituencies and interpellating the prime minister.

2006

Forth

Emir

Frequent interpellations of ministers and confrontation between the Assembly and the government and the resignation of the government.

2008

Fifth

Emir

Frequent interpellations of ministers and confrontation between the Assembly and the government

2009

Sixth

Emir

Frequent interpellations directed to the Prime Minister and Ministers, the incident of storming the National Assembly, the resignation of the government, and MPs bribes accusations.

2011

Seventh

Constitut-
ional Court

The Constitutional Court dissolved the elected Assembly in 2012 and reinstated the 2009 dissolved Assembly, but the Emir of Kuwait redissolved it again.

2012

Eighth

Constitut-
ional Court

The Constitutional Court dissolved the Assembly because of the unconstitutionality of the decree on establishing the Higher National Election Commission, and it adopted the constitutionality of the one-vote system law.

2013

Ninth

Emir

Regional circumstances and security challenges and repercussions of their dangers and warnings on Kuwait.

2016

Tenth

 
Kuwait is divided into five constituencies for the National Assembly membership, in which each constituency elects ten members for the Assembly, and that each voter has the right to cast a vote for one candidate in his respective constituency. The one-vote system caused the opposition majority to boycott the last 2012 and 2013 elections. despite the lack of response to the request of opposition majority to amend the electoral system to the previous multi-vote system , which allows a voter  to choose four candidates; the opposition has decided to participate in the elections in order to resume its presence and influence in parliamentary life, justifying its position that it is in response to the national interest and to face challenges caused by regional tensions in which the State of Kuwait is facing, as well as to stand against the wrong policies of the government and correct them for the benefit of the citizen and public interest, accusing the dissolved Assembly that the government is controlling it through the exchange of interests with its members, which negatively resulted in underdevelopment in the country, restrictions on freedoms, and passing laws that violate privacy.

Political Currents and Blocs

After the boycott of opposition majority  for two electoral sessions in four years, most of them returned to participate in a one-vote electoral system, which is the reason of their boycott, understanding the position of the boycotters.

Political currents in Kuwait are classified based on a sectarian basis (Sunni - Shiite), Islamic - liberal, and Ikhwani – Salafi, as well as the tribe is also present with a strong position on the political landscape. It is also noted that some currents are divided into branches; Salafists split into (the Islamic Salafi Alliance, Salafi movement) after they were one current; the Shiites to the (National Islamic Alliance, Justice and Peace Alliance); the Liberals (Democratic Forum, the National Democratic Alliance); the Islamic Constitutional Movement or (Hadas) influenced by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood; in addition to the Popular Action bloc, a political parliamentary bloc, focuses on populist issues; and independents.

 

Current Elections of the National Assembly

The number of applicants for candidacy in the five constituencies in the country reached 455 candidates; the total of abdicators (withdrawers) is  128, and the write-off's total is 40. The Court of Cassation upheld (final judgment) and wrote off 21 candidates after the Administrative Court overturned the examination committee decision of writing off candidates and it was endorsed by the Court of Appeal. The net candidates is 287 candidates, including 15 women. It is stated that percentage of Kuwaiti women voters is 53%.

The Constitutional Court of Kuwait decided, last Tuesday, not to accept the appeal submitted in regard with the unconstitutionality of the law decree on the dissolution of the National Assembly (parliament) and the decree of  inviting voters to elect a new Assembly.

Motives of Participating Under the One-vote System

Members of the dissolved parliament seek to maintain their seats. For the opposition (a coalition that included many Islamic, national and liberal currents boycotted two sessions of General elections in 2012 and 2013, protesting against the government's amendment of the voting system), it is again participating in the elections motivated by political reforms; to promote democratic practice through the dome of parliament, and in response to the negative situation of development, public freedoms and interests of the people of Kuwait, in its point of view, after it has failed through the boycott. The opposition majority boycotted the elections of one-vote system due to the advantages of the multi-vote system which used to allow political and tribal electorates blocs to coordinate among them to ensure the winning of their candidates, to the extent that they were conducting a preliminary elections within their  entities to choose the most likely to win candidates. While the one-vote law works to break down the electorates of political blocs and enhances the chances of the independents to win. This election is a practical test of the one-vote system, and what might come out of its results in terms of changing the balance of political forces and the relationship of the parliament with the government.

 

Motives of Boycotters

The most prominent boycotters, Kuwaiti Democratic Forum,  HASHD movement , and Popular Action Bloc, have rejected candidacy in its name, while some members of opposition, that returned to participate, preferred to continue their boycott, claiming that the grounds for dissolving the Assembly and calling for early elections are contradictory. They see that if the concern of regional tension and deadlock, which requires a great popular Cohesion, is a reason for dissolution, how is the situation going to be while calling for elections based on a system its outcomes disintegrate the society, weaken it and  break its unity?

Electoral Programmes

Electoral programs focused on the themes of legislation, economic and service reforms, and the issues of security, rights and freedoms, noting the confluence of political and tribal contradictory currents on:

  • - Rejecting the DNA Act passed by the dissolved Assembly; due to its dangers on social fabric, and threats to civil peace.
  • - The amendments of elections law passed in October 2012 and endorsing  the previous multi-vote  system.
  • - Replacing the National Assembly Speaker and Prime Minister.
  • - Rejecting withdrawal of nationality, restriction on rights and freedoms, and closure of channels and newspapers.
  • - Development programmes; combating economic reform programmes implemented by the government, due to its negative consequences for the citizen, and rationalizing public money spending policy.
  • - serving citizens, meeting their needs, and facilitating their dealings.
  • - Security issues; partnership with Gulf countries in the sphere of security and defense due to the regional threats and terrorist operations that Kuwait witnessed.
  • - The agreement on protecting principles.

     

Reality of Constituencies and Determiners of Voters

First, Affiliation determiner: characteristics of Kuwaiti society entities (sectarian, political and tribal) control the determiners of the Kuwaiti voter's choice of candidates for the National Assembly membership. In the first constituency, sectarian affiliation factor leads on the rest of factors, because of the Shiite focus intensity. Although their percentage is close to Sunnis, their fortunes are more; because of the unity of their electorate bloc versus competition in the Sunni bloc, albeit forecasts indicate equally sharing of seats. The case is similar in the second constituency, but to a lesser extent, while the tribal and fanatical affiliation factor is dominant in the fourth and fifth constituencies. The third constituency remains the most civilized one as a result of the predominance of political factor above narrow fanaticism, albeit a little is still there, as well as the presence of the impact of regional tensions and extensions of relationships of some of those involved.

Second, electoral programmes determiner: the voter's needs and aspirations represent a key determiner in the voter's choices of candidate for the National Assembly membership, and it gets more interesting as much as linked to his needs and fundamental interests, especially that the Assembly's influence on the government policy is strong, to the extent that led some interested to pity the experience of political participation in Kuwait due to the resignations of government and dissolutions of parliament.

Legislations issued by the dissolved National Assembly, primarily the DNA Act, the one–vote Act , policies of governmental austerity, withdrawal of nationality, restrictions on rights and freedoms, which touched the needs and interests of citizens and societal and political entities, prompt  the voter and entities to mobilize and participate actively to ensure the winning of those who protect their rights and ensure their interests and aspirations.

Opposition believes that the dissolution of Assembly happened suddenly in order to reduce its chances to rearrange its papers, as well as the period between dissolution and voting was limited to 35 days, approximately half of the constitutional period (60 days). Despite its fears on the one-vote system it confirms that its presence in the Assembly will be strong at the expense of the dissolved Assembly's members, in which it is expecting their winning percentage to be 30%.

Future of Political Stability in Kuwait- Expected Scenarios

It is expected that the turnout in the elections will rise up to 70%, after it had been in 2009, 58%, and in February 2012, 59.5%. After that, opposition boycotted the elections in December 2012, the rate was 40%. In July 2013 elections, it increased to 52.5%, as a result of a limited participation of the boycotters after the Court reinstated the parliament in 2009 and approved the one-vote system, and then, Emir dissolved it and called for new elections.

Given the previous reading of the history and reality of the electoral process in Kuwait, it appears that political life, in general, is heading towards three possible scenarios: the first is optimistic, which is "political stability" accompanied by political reforms. The second scenario ,as an acceptable option, is the continuation with a record of minor reforms cases. The third scenario raises the option of dissolving the Assembly before the end of its regular term.

First Scenario; Political Stability:

It is expected that the election produces a balanced parliamentary lineup, where there is no control for a particular party; neither opposition nor pro-government in the parliament. The return of opposition MPs will be their presence at the expense of previous parliament members, which is moving the escalation, which has been known between the parliament and the government, to the inside of the Assembly, making agreements on common interests of parliamentarians and their political electorates and currents, and possibly forming opposition majority intermittently met by common interests as well as reconsidering the Act of DNA and withdrawal of nationality, and attempting to amend the electoral system, in addition to restricting the role of government on rights and freedoms, economic and service reforms and public spending policy.

Factors of Achieving the Scenario

  • Weakness of opposition blocs; the greater the number of small formations is the greater disagreements and projects are, and we note that some parliaments in the world set a specified minimum limit to obtain any seats in the parliament, which is known as (parliament threshold).
  • Swapping of interests between the government and the National Assembly.
  • Benefiting from past experiences, and sensing responsibility and seriousness of the circumstances the region experiencing .

Consequently,  these results and the relationship nature with the government may lead to Parliament lasts until its term completes.

Second Scenario; Acceptable Continuation:

It seems that the elites and blocs of Kuwaiti opposition is aware of the sensitivity of the stage and the importance of continuing the political process. As the State also realizes the importance of containing internal imbalances and solving them. However, this perception is not enough to reach political stability without a constitutional, legal and judicial reforms. It is expected that the concern of the State and the political opposition blocs will contribute to the continuation of the Assembly until the end of the session, but it may not achieve major political reforms, with the possibility of achieving the common demands.

Third Scenario; Continuation of Political Deadlock:

It is that confrontation between government and opposition is  back again, and the persistence of interpellating the Prime Minister, and it may escalate to demand replacing the National Assembly Speaker, as a result of the government and parliament inability to reach common solutions in which government can avoid standing before the Assembly, or the Assembly itself can avoid dissolution decision by Emir or Court as it has been usually. In fact, Kuwaitis did not witness substantial reforms that can stop the cases of the dissolution of parliament or the permanent clash between the parliament and the government, and that is what makes this scenario expected and most likely to happen.

Factors of Achieving the Scenario

  • The absence of a political settlement of the contention issues, notably the election and DNA Acts , and the again forcibly participation of opposition.
  • Frequent cases of discrepancy between the members of parliament and the government and the prevailing culture of clash between the parliament and the government.
  • Ending up with the dissolution of the Assembly, as it has not completed a full session since 2006 until now.
Comments & Discussion

Stay Updated