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Politics of Kuwait

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Title: Politics of Kuwait  
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Politics of Kuwait

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Kuwait's government is a constitutional monarchy.


The Constitution of Kuwait was ratified in 1962 and has elements of a presidential and a parliamentary system of government. The Emir is the head of State and has the power to appoint the Prime Minister. Both the Emir and judicially independent Constitutional Court have the authority to dissolve the parliament.

The Kuwaiti parliament (per article 3 of the Constitution) has the constitutional right to approve and disapprove of an Emir's appointment, therefore the parliament has the authority to remove an Emir from his post. The parliament effectively removed Saad al-Sabah from his post in 2006 due to his illness.

The Constitution expressly supports political organizations, but they remain illegal as no law has arisen to define and regulate them. MPs tend to serve as Independents or as members of some loose affiliation or faction based on philosophy, sect, class or clan.

Citizens who have reached the age of 21 years, are not in the military and have not been convicted of a crime, can vote. Parliamentary candidates must be eligible to vote and at least 30 years old.


The Parliament consists of fifty members who are elected in districts using the first past the post voting method. The major factions, de facto parties, are as follows;

  • National Democratic Alliance - Secular, neo-liberal faction. Has its own TV channel, Nabeeha Tahalof, and publishes the daily newspaper Al-Jarida.
  • Democratic Foundation of Kuwait - is a leftist political faction which is composed of social democrats, pan Arabs and liberals. The faction operate a weekly newspaper called Al-Talea. Its candidates are usually backed by the Youth Association of Kuwait, its de facto youth arm.
  • Popular Action Bloc - Secular nationalists, populists and progressives. Tend to focus on a populist issues, i.e. funding for housing.
  • Hadas - Sunni Islamists. Commonly known as the Islamic Constitutional Movement and has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Independents - No affiliation and tend to be liberals and supportive of the ruling family.

National Issues

Two contentious issues, leading to six different elections between 1991–2008, involve issues pertaining to the electoral process and involvement of the ruling family in the government. The exclusion of women from the electoral process, prior to 2005, the minimum voting age of 21 and the fact that parties are still illegal, are also frequent points of contention.

2006 Election

An early election was called in 2006 as disputes over the redistricting of legislative districts and dislike of the Prime Minister, led to the parliament being dissolved and new elections being called. The turnout rate was 66.4%.

A coalition of liberals and populist nationalists (Popular Action Bloc) won 18 seats, becoming the largest political bloc in the parliament. Sunni Islamists won 16 seats. Most of the 13 liberal Independent candidates who won, were expected to side with the ruling family and the remaining seats were won by a Shiite populist faction.
 Summary of the 29 June 2006 National Assembly of Kuwait election results
National Democratic Alliance (liberals) & Popular Action Bloc (nationalists) 18
Sunni Islamists 16
Independents 16
Total (turnout 66.4%) 50
Source: Rulers

2008 Elections

Protests over the election law, lead to another early election being called in 2007. Along with charges of electoral fraud, concerns about high inflation was also a major campaign issue. This time the Sunni Islamists gained four seats, the Shitte populists gained no seats, the Neoliberals lost a seat and the Independents lost three seats. The ongoing protests over election laws and the power of the ruling family led to another early election.

2009 Elections

Independents won 20 seats. Sunni Islamists won 11 seats, liberals won at least 8 seats and Shias won 9 seats.[1] The Popular Action Bloc won 2 seats.
 Summary of the 16 May 2009 National Assembly of Kuwait Election Results
Seats Ref
Independents 20 [1]
Sunni Islamist 11 [1]
Liberals 8 [1]
Shias 9 [1]
Popular Action Bloc 2 [1]
Total (turnout 60%) 50

2012 Elections

Due to corruption allegations against previous Prime Minister Nasser Al-Sabah and mounting pressure from the parliament and numerous protests, the government resigned on 28 November 2011. Parliament was dissolved and early elections called for the early spring of 2012.

Liberals won 9 seats.[2] The opposition bloc won 34 out of 50 seats in the parliament.[2] The opposition bloc is a loose coalition of liberals, Islamists, secular nationalists, populists, tribes and a few Shiites. Sunni Islamists and tribes combined won 23 seats.[2]
 Summary of the 2 February 2012 National Assembly of Kuwait election results
formal or informal group Seats Ref
Independents 10 [3][4]
Liberals 9 [2]
Sunni Islamist 13[3] [4]
Popular Action Bloc & opposition reformists 11[3] [4]
Shia 7 [4]
Total (turnout: 59%)[5] 50

2013 Elections

Elections were held in July 27, 2013. Voter turnout was an estimated 52.5%, which was higher than expected despite an opposition boycott,[2] the voter turnout was only 7% lower than the turnout of the non-boycotted February 2012 elections (59%).[6] Liberals were the biggest winners of the election.

According to the Associated Press, liberal lawmakers gained at least six seats.[7] The Congressional Research Service reported that liberals won 9 seats, making them the largest political bloc in the parliament after pro-government Independents.[8] Fox News reported that the tribal bloc won at least 10 seats in the 50-member parliament.[9] Two women were elected.[7] The Shia group was reduced to eight seats after winning 17 seats in December 2012.[2] Sunni Islamists won 3 seats.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Kuwait - Majles al-Ommah (National Assembly) - Elections in 2009".  
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Kuwait election: Islamist-led opposition makes gains".  
  3. ^ a b c The 4 Feb Kuwait Times article gives 34 - (4+4) = 26 seats to Sunni Islamists and the Popular Action Bloc together. These are entered as 13 for each pending more information. An update is likely to be published at this IPU page (see the archive).
  4. ^ a b c d "Islamists reign as women lose out".  
  5. ^ Sharaf, Nihal; Abubakar A. Ibrahim (2012-02-02). "New faces for opposition reset: Endemic disputes dull voter optimism". Archived from the original on 2012-02-03. Retrieved 2012-02-04. . One hour before polls closed, 238308/400296=59.53 percent, rounds to 60 percent.
  6. ^ Suliman Al-Atiqi (September 12, 2013). "One Man, One Vote".  
  7. ^ a b "Kuwait's conservative tribes make election gains".  
  8. ^ a b "Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy".  
  9. ^ "Kuwait's conservative tribes make gains in parliamentary elections".  

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