Kuwait’s first As­sem­bly: Step to­wards democ­racy

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KUWAIT: Amid a pal­pa­ble demo­cratic at­mos­phere with par­lia­men­tary elec­tions less than a month away on Novem­ber 26, Kuwait’s Na­tional As­sem­bly has been the na­tion’s leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity since independence.

On June 19, 1961, Kuwait be­came an in­de­pen­dent state by virtue of an agree­ment signed with Bri­tain by Kuwait’s sev­enth ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah. Af­ter two months had elapsed, the late Sheikh Ab­dul­lah Al-Salem is­sued an Amiri de­cree on Au­gust 26, 1961, where he ap­pointed an 11-mem­ber com­mit­tee to work on form­ing the coun­try’s first Na­tional As­sem­bly.

More­over, in Septem­ber 1961, a law call­ing for Kuwait’s first par­lia­men­tary elec­tions came into ef­fect, as Kuwait was sub­se­quently di­vided into 10 con­stituen­cies with each rep­re­sented by two can­di­dates in par­lia­ment. The law also stip­u­lated that all MPs should at least be 30 years of age and should be flu­ent in spo­ken and writ­ten Ara­bic.

In a po­lit­i­cal mile­stone, elec­tions were held on De­cem­ber 30, 1961 to de­ter­mine the na­tion’s in­au­gu­ral na­tional as­sem­bly, or ‘con­stituent as­sem­bly’, a 20-mem­ber strong com­mit­tee that would go on to hold its first ses­sion, with a speech given by Sheikh Ab­dul­lah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, where he es­poused the mer­its of true democ­racy. Fur­ther­more, in its first ses­sion, Ab­dul­latif Al-Ghanem was elected as­sem­bly speaker. From there, in March 1962, par­lia­ment formed a five-mem­ber com­mit­tee in Yaqoub Al-Hu­maithi, Hu­moud Al-Khaled, Ab­dul­latif Al-Ghanem, late Amir Sheikh Saad Al-Ab­dul­lah Al-Sabah and Saud Al-Ab­dul­raz­zaq.

Upon pre­sent­ing Sheikh Ab­dul­lah Al-Salem with the na­tion’s of­fi­cial con­sti­tu­tion, Ghanem un­der­scored the enor­mity of the mo­ment, say­ing, “It is an honor for all of us on this his­toric day to present the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion, which epit­o­mizes gen­uine demo­cratic prin­ci­ples.” In re­sponse, Sheikh Ab­dul­lah Al-Salem de­scribed the oc­ca­sion as a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in the fledg­ling na­tion’s his­tory.

On Jan­uary 15, 1963, the in­au­gu­ral as­sem­bly held its last ses­sion, where it noted that democ­racy has come full cir­cle with the na­tion’s first con­sti­tu­tion. In a speech, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ah­mad pro­claimed that Kuwait has ush­ered in a new era of democ­racy and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity.

A week later, Kuwait’s first na­tional as­sem­bly paved the way for elec­tions to de­ter­mine the coun­try’s first par­lia­ment. The new­ly­formed con­sti­tu­tion con­tained 183 clauses that deal with gov­er­nance, au­thor­ity, so­cial val­ues and gen­eral obli­ga­tions.

KUWAIT: This Jan­uary 20, 1962 pic­ture shows then Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Ab­dul­lah Al-Salem Al-Sabah de­liv­er­ing a speech dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral ses­sion of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly of Kuwait. —Photo courtesy of Kuwait-his­tory.net

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