Briefing Paper

Author: 

Jane Kinninmont

  • The political crisis of June 2012 has emboldened Kuwaitis calling for constitutional reforms, above all to improve the functioning of parliament. Supporters of reform across the Gulf region hope that Kuwait will set a precedent by developing a genuine constitutional monarchy; conservatives think quite the opposite.
     
  • Kuwait's parliament has an adversarial relationship with the government. With neither the rights nor the responsibilities of governing, elected representatives largely function as an opposition to the royally appointed cabinet.
     
  • Parliament can veto government actions, but has few powers to propose solutions to problems. There are no clear mechanisms to resolve legislature-executive disputes, except for the outright dissolution of parliament by the ruler, which has become almost routine.
     
  • This state of affairs is widely blamed for a poor recent record of implementing government investment projects and the limited success in bringing in foreign investment. The perception that Kuwait's relative democracy hinders its economic development has negative repercussions for the perceptions of democracy in the Gulf region.
     
  • Parliament could be improved by the introduction of political parties and appointing MPs to ministerial positions, but there are broader questions about the functioning of an elected parliament in an oil-rich, state-dominated economy and the meaning of democracy where most of Kuwait's population are non-nationals.