Democ­racy in Kuwait: Shin­ing bea­con in re­gion

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Kuwait’s long history of joint gov­er­nance, which dates back to the 18th cen­tury, crowned a very unique and pi­o­neer­ing demo­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence that was crowned by the 1962 Con­sti­tu­tion. A strug­gle for democ­racy con­tin­ued in the sub­se­quent years but re­sults were dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on the lo­cal and re­gional cir­cum­stances and vari­ables. Com­pared to the rest of the Gulf, the Kuwaiti ex­pe­ri­ence of democ­racy is a lead­ing one and is one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences of democ­racy in the Arab world.

To elab­o­rate on this sub­ject, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) in­ter­viewed a num­ber of se­nior-level aca­demi­cians, for­eign pol­icy ex­perts and renowned jour­nal­ists have ex­tolled the deep-rooted demo­cratic process en­joyed by the State of Kuwait, say­ing it rep­re­sents a bea­con in the re­gion.

Reg­u­lat­ing mech­a­nism

Marcela Ganea, an in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ist based in Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia, said that free elec­tions are vi­tal for a coun­try as they work like a reg­u­lat­ing mech­a­nism en­sur­ing a bal­ance of vi­sions and rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

She added that “through elec­tions, Kuwait can pre­serve its political sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity and open­ness for fur­ther economic de­vel­op­ment based on knowl­edge and in­no­va­tion. Kuwait is al­ready a pil­lar of sta­bil­ity in the Gulf.” She pointed out that in all coun­tries, vot­ers cast their bal­lot for a bet­ter life, adding that Kuwait has re­gional se­cu­rity and economic chal­lenges be­cause of the de­cline of the oil prices.

Michael Herb, Di­rec­tor of the Mid­dle East In­sti­tute in the United States said mean­while that Kuwait has, in many re­spects, stronger political in­sti­tu­tions, adding that elec­tions are very largely free and fair, where the National As­sem­bly gives cit­i­zens a voice in how pol­icy is made by the gov­ern­ment.

Un­prece­dented sys­tem

Dr Ah­mad Ab­dul­ma­lik, Me­dia Pro­fes­sor at the Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Qatar and me­dia and aca­demic re­searcher in­di­cated that Kuwait has suc­ceeded in es­tab­lish­ing an un­prece­dented demo­cratic sys­tem in the Arab re­gion, adding that ap­pli­ca­tion of demo­cratic life and the sus­tain­abil­ity of the cul­ture of pop­u­lar par­tic­i­pa­tion, which is ab­sent from many of the peo­ples of the earth, is a success or an an­chor for the nor­mal growth of democ­racy.

“Of course, ev­ery march, what­ever its mo­tives are, is sub­jected to hin­drance over pri­or­i­ties be­tween the Democ­racy House and Gov­ern­ment House, say­ing that such ben­e­fits the march,” he said. “I be­lieve that the Kuwaiti peo­ple’s co­he­sive­ness around their le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment dur­ing the Iraqi in­va­sion of Kuwait in 1990 was a safety valve for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the demo­cratic ap­proach in Kuwait, and reaf­fir­ma­tion of the right of the peo­ple of Kuwait in prac­tic­ing their part­ner­ship in ad­min­is­tra­tion of the coun­try’s pub­lic mat­ters.” How­ever, “we should not un­der­es­ti­mate the er­rors that ac­com­pa­nied de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion, be­cause there had been na­tions which pre­ceded Kuwait in the Demo­cratic process, and faced those mis­takes.”

Ab­dul­ma­lik as­serted that His High­ness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has al­ways been ‘leader of democ­racy’ espe­cially amidst crit­i­cal and com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tions. He said that it is im­por­tant that any par­lia­ment be­comes strong which in turn would so­lid­ify the gov­ern­ment against any threat.

He said that sta­bil­ity of the demo­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence in Kuwait has be­come an un­prece­dented in the Arab coun­tries, adding that Kuwait’s lead­ing po­si­tion in the world puts a great re­spon­si­bil­ity on it to play a role in the sta­bil­ity of so­ci­eties, head to­wards pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment and fight cor­rup­tion. The State of Kuwait, he said, has played a pos­i­tive role in re­solv­ing many re­gional dis­putes and of­fered gen­er­ous aid, and per­haps the most re­cently was the es­tab­lish­ment of a fund to as­sist the Syr­ian peo­ple, be­sides host­ing the Ye­meni talks.

‘Deep-rooted’

Fur­ther­more, Mo­ham­mad Is­mael Harbi, head of the diplo­matic sec­tion in the Qatari Al-Watan news­pa­per also said that the demo­cratic process in Kuwait is an ex­am­ple to be fol­lowed by many coun­tries in the re­gion, de­scrib­ing it as “deep­rooted and an­cient.”

He said that Kuwait had known democ­racy since the be­gin­ning of the 3rd decade of last cen­tury with the for­ma­tion of the first con­sul­ta­tive coun­cil in 1921 as a way by the Kuwaitis to es­tab­lish some sort of a de­vel­oped coun­cil so as to run their af­fairs fol­low­ing their success in the is­suance of the ‘So­cial Jus­tice’ and ‘Div­ing Law’ which was like a so­cial contact be­tween ship own­ers and those con­cerned with the main rev­enue of the coun­try then, which all had pos­i­tively re­flected on the pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity of the coun­try.

He praised the Kuwaiti rulers, since the found­ing of Kuwait, for giv­ing the peo­ple the chance to co-run the af­fairs of the coun­try, thus, sub­stan­ti­at­ing the gen­uine spirit of democ­racy in the Kuwaiti so­ci­ety on shura, come-to­gether and co­he­sive­ness, espe­cially the big role played by di­waniyas which were like small lo­cal par­lia­ments prior to the es­tab­lish­ment of the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary coun­cils.

“Such steps had pos­i­tively re­flected on re­la­tions be­tween the ruler and the peo­ple be­com­ing a one fam­ily,” he said. He also ex­tolled the heroic stances of Kuwaiti par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who sup­ported the le­git­i­macy dur­ing the Iraqi in­va­sion in 1990, de­scrib­ing their stances as “hon­or­able and coura­geous.”

Kuwaitis are proud of their ac­tive political her­itage. Elec­tions were first held in 1963. The National As­sem­bly build­ing be­came an icon for Kuwaiti in­de­pen­dence af­ter the in­va­sion by Sad­dam Hus­sein in 1990.

The Con­sti­tu­tion of Kuwait was rat­i­fied in 1962 and has el­e­ments of a pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment. The con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates that Kuwait must have an elected leg­is­la­ture (the National As­sem­bly). Cit­i­zens who have reached the age of 21 years can vote. Par­lia­men­tary can­di­dates must be el­i­gi­ble to vote and at least 30 years old.

Mean­while, Head of the Me­dia Cen­ter for 2016 Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions in the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion Mo­ham­mad Al-Bad­dah said ear­lier that the Min­istry’s For­eign Me­dia de­part­ment, has made all prepa­ra­tions to host some 75 me­dia fig­ures and jour­nal­ists out of 150 from around the world to cover the up­com­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions slated for Novem­ber 26.

Bad­dah, also Head of the Europe and the Amer­i­cas de­part­ment told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that the for­eign me­dia de­part­ment has in­vited 75 se­nior-level ex­perts in the field of me­dia and jour­nal­ism in­clud­ing CNN, Al-Ara­bia, Sky News as well as a num­ber of other pres­ti­gious news­pa­pers to cover the up­com­ing elec­tions in Kuwait. — KUNA

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