Democracy in Kuwait: Shining beacon in region
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.
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.
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.
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
The National Assembly