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Kuwaiti democracy was initiated in 1962 when our people elected the constitutional Assembly and then the enactment of the Constitution.
Kuwait’s population then was small. There were 161,000 Kuwaitis out of 262,000 people in the country. Those who were eligible to vote might have not been more than 20,000.
There were some active political personalities at the time, and they were vocal in their demands for political and economic reforms. Voters were attracted to nominees by their views, programs and personal qualities.
Now after 56 years of this political system, many Kuwaitis ponder about the ability of our democracy to deliver political change and social reforms. The electoral law has been changed on several events, but the outcome of the polls have not provided effective legislators.
In the last few elections, since the beginning of this century, voters elected members on a tribal and sectarian basis and that, of course, runs against the spirit of the Constitution which advanced the values of national unity and progressive human values.
Many observers think that there is a need to evaluate the current political structure and enact constitutional and legal amendments to make our democracy more effective.
However, one wonders, if it will ever be possible to make such changes when legislators do not foresee any political advantages! It may need a strong social movement which includes civil society organizations to push for such changes. Most legislators or members of the National Assembly are worried about their reelection.
This is apparently why they introduce laws that can appease the electorate, such as the lowering of the age of retirees, or refusing any attempts by the government to rationalize subsidies.
Can one assume that the lack of legal political organizations or parties is one of the causes of the democratic mishaps? It is possible, but such organizations or parties must be based on ideals and values stipulated in our Constitution and not on religious or tribal affiliations. To what extent is our social fabric able to overcome such affiliations? That is the real challenge for our political and social systems.
By Amer Theyab Al-Tameemi
Consultant and Economic Researcher