The Ever Spinning Wheel of Democracy… in Kuwait

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Sun 27 November / Nov 2016. 01:00 AM
  • Fahed Khitan

The Kuwaitis never tire of the democratic practice; almost every year they conduct legislative elections. Over the last 10 years, the House of Representatives was dismantled 8 times, and in 2012, the polls were annulled twice.

Despite that, voting turnout rates are on the rise there; Kuwaitis scored a record turnout rate Saturday, compared to previous elections, with a 70 per cent participation ratio. Meanwhile, in a country like Jordan, where the elections are held once every 4 years, the most recent turnout rate barely exceeded 50 per cent.

That said, the problem remains in Kuwait that elections, despite multiple recurrences, do not change much of the political dynamic. After every elections, the Cabinet crew is restored; both the Premier and their government, and upon the first collision with MPs, with the first Representative inquisition, a decision is made to dissemble the Cabinet, and the House itself, and redo the elections. That way, the Kuwait wheel of democracy, ever a-spin, but ever so fruitless.

In spite of the near annual Kuwaiti election expertise, the public sphere remains unaffected, and in some instances, it can be inferred that the performance of the government institution is regressing. Probably, it is because elections have become more of a ritual that the people and state have become accustomed to, rather than anything else, for the Kuwaiti democracy stands as one of the earliest Arab democracies, particularly alien to the Gulf, to whose wonders Kuwait stands isolated in these regards.

Even though Kuwait has seen much popular movement in the first few years of the “Arab Spring” phase, political stability was sustained, and parliamentary representative democracy has not receded. Meanwhile, the political system there did not concede much for the opposition. Contrary to receding to popular demands, the regime actually induced a fundamental amendment to the elections system and substituted it with the Single-Vote system, which is the same as Jordan’s before the recent amendments and polls.

Typically, the Kuwaiti elections spin about a precise game of balance, maintaining an accurate space between society’s political components. Sometimes, the victory of one political current, by one seat, would suffice a change in the rules of the parliamentary dynamic.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, and the Shiite current, are the most prominent players in the Kuwaiti opposition, rivalled by a government affiliated current, whose share has been retracting due to a variety of factors. However, as it is in every Arab society, Tribal and other social-status related factors play a decisive role in directing voter inclinations, in addition to the circuit division system that is installed there recently.

As for the opposition under the Kuwaiti dome, well, they are known to be fierce in their baffle with the government. And with time, these have been made into stars in the Kuwaiti and Arab media in general.

Regardless of our opinion on the Kuwaiti democratic process, the practice reflects much societal vitality, and articulates the society’s appreciation of their democratic tradition. Notably, the oil-rich state does have a much higher ceiling for media, in terms of liberties, compared to other Arab and Gulf states.

Years from now, the Kuwaitis may agree on the necessity of advancing the rules of the political game, for the polls to not remain the only actual democratic component, and perhaps then the Kuwaiti government would reflect the directions of the Parliament, in order to overcome the impotency that has been struck at the heart of many Arab democratic experiments before.

A few days from now, the new House of Representatives will convene in Kuwait, and the wheel will spin again, pending a new elections, for the wheel of democracy in Kuwait is ever spinning.