Inside Story

Kuwait in crisis

A political crisis brews after opposition groups promise to bring down controversial new parliament.
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2012 09:46

Kuwait's political divisions look to be growing ever wider.

The oil-rich nation has been shaken by a series of political crises that have stalled development and investment. And the Gulf country's monarchy is facing unprecedented protests as voices on the street draw inspiration from the Arab Spring.

"We carry a great respect for the opposition but I think they were hasty a little bit in making the decision of boycotting the election. They used their last option at the beginning; they lost some of their judgement in using this last option. Wisdom needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to elections and boycotting - especially boycotting."

- Fahad Shulemi, a security analyst

Kuwait held its second parliamentary election this year, but opposition groups say they will not stand by the outcome - putting them back on a collision course with the ruling family.

Members of Kuwait's opposition boycotted Saturday's poll. They are angry at a decree by the emir, which they say changed voting laws to favour pro-government candidates.

It means that they now have no representatives in the 50-seat parliament.

Walid Tabtabai, an opposition politician, said: "According to our information more than 80 per cent of the Kuwaiti people have boycotted these elections. We have passed by the polling stations and found them empty. Kuwaitis are refusing such an assembly and will start working from today to topple it and will not accept it either socially or politically."

Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, is the country's head of state and the head of the ruling Sabah family. He appoints the country's prime minister, which is currently Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah, and the prime minister in turn appoints the 15 members of the cabinet.

"We have a very severe crisis in terms of political representation. We have as a political movement presented our proposal with major political reforms is an elected government and party authorisation."

- Salem Al-Ghadouri, from the Civil Democratic Movement of Kuwait

Kuwait's parliament, the National Assembly, for which elections were held on Saturday, is comprised of 50 seats split equally between five districts.

Kuwait does not allow political parties, so people form loose alliances based on their politics, as well as religious and family ties.

So, can Kuwait resolve its political crisis?

Inside Story, with James Bays, discusses this with guests: Fahad Shulemi, a security analyst and former Kuwaiti army colonel; Joseph Kechichian, an independent Middle East analyst and columnist for Gulf News; and Salem al-Ghadouri, the deputy secretary of the Civil Democratic Movement of Kuwait and a political activist.


  • The Arab Spring created new momentum and calls for greater political freedom.
  • The first street demonstrations demanding reforms in Kuwait took place in March 2011.
  • By November, the numbers had swelled to more than 50,000 - forcing the emir to act.
  • He replaced the prime minister - albeit with another member of the ruling family.
  • The government then resigned, and weeks later parliament was dissolved.
  • Parliamentary elections in February resulted in an opposition landslide.
  • By June the Constitutional Court declared those polls illegal.
  • The previous parliament, which had generally backed the ruling family, was reinstated.
  • In October, the emir dissolved this reinstated parliament - and then made a controversial change to the voting law.
  • Which brings us to Saturday's elections and the boycott over that amendment.


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