Government of Kuwait

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The government of Kuwait consists of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. The State of Kuwait (Dawlat al Kuwayt) is governed by the democratically elected Parliament, Government and Al-Sabah Emir, the political power of al-Sabah was very limited before the 1930s due to the big financial influence of Kuwait's merchants before the discovery of oil.[1] The Constitution of Kuwait, approved and promulgated in November 1962, calls for direct elections to a unicameral parliament (the National Assembly). Kuwait's judiciary system is independent from government influence and is often viewed as the most independent judiciary system in the Arab world.[2]

Legislative branch (the Parliament)[edit]

The unicameral National Assembly (or Majlis al-Umma) can have up to 65 deputies. Fifty deputies are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Members of the cabinet also sit in the parliament as deputies. The constitution limits the size of the cabinet to 16, and at least one member of the cabinet must be an elected deputy.

The National Assembly plays a pivotal role in decision making, with powers to initiate legislation, question government ministers, remove an Emir from his post and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Emir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation.

The National Assembly (per article 3 of the Constitution) has the constitutional right to approve and disapprove of an Emir's appointment, therefore the Assembly has the authority to remove an Emir from his post. The Assembly effectively removed Saad al-Sabah from his post in 2006 because of Saad's inability to rule due to illness.

The Cabinet ministers, together with the PM, are excluded from voting only on one occasion: when MPs - after questioning an individual minister - vote on a motion of confidence. MPs frequently exercise their Constitutional right to question Cabinet members. Parliament's sessions and interrogation of Cabinet ministers are aired on Kuwaiti TV uncensored. MPs also have the right (so far never exercised) to question the Premier, and then table a motion of non-cooperation with the government, in which case the Emir must either dissolve Parliament or replace the Cabinet.

Executive branch[edit]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Emir Sabah Al-Sabah 29 January 2006
Prime Minister Jaber Al-Sabah 4 December 2011

The Government[edit]

A new government requires a positive vote of confidence from the Parliament. The post of the Prime Minister has historically been reserved in practice to the Crown Prince. This has changed, due in part to popular demands, in July 2003 by appointing Sabah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to Prime Minister while Saad Al-Sabah was holding the position of Crown Prince.

At least one member of the government must be a deputy who won election to the National Assembly. The 1992 cabinet included six elected members of the National Assembly, the most of any cabinet in Kuwaiti history. The current cabinet has two elected members of the Assembly.

All members of the cabinet also hold seats in the National Assembly. The size of the cabinet is limited to one-third the number of elected deputies of the National Assembly - that is, sixteen.

The Emir[edit]

The Emir's powers are defined by the 1961 constitution. These powers include appointing the prime minister, however the appointment of a new prime minister requires the approval of the parliament. Upon the death of the Emir, the Crown Prince succeeds. The Crown Prince must be approved by an absolute majority of the members of the democratically elected National Assembly parliament. If the new Crown Prince fails to win approval from the National Assembly, the emir submits the names of three eligible members of the family to the National Assembly, and the Assembly selects one to be the crown prince. The Emir and the crown prince must be direct descendants, in the patrilineal line, of Mubarak the Great. Successions were smooth in 1965 and in 1978. The succession of 2006 caused a major political crisis.

Kuwait experienced an unprecedented era of prosperity under Emir Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah, who died in 1977 after governing for eleven years, and under his successor, Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who died in January 2006. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy. During the seven month occupation by Iraq, the Emir, the government, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia or other nations. The Emir and the government managed Kuwaiti affairs from London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses. His return after the liberation in February 1991 was relatively smooth.

Parliament removes Emir[edit]

On January 24, 2006 the Kuwaiti parliament voted to remove the ailing Emir Saad al-Sabah from power. He was Emir only briefly, after the death of Emir Jaber al Ahmed al Sabah on January 15, 2006.

The cabinet nominated the previous Prime Minister, Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah, to be elected Emir. He won the majority of the votes in the parliament and then became the 15th Emir of the state. He then appointed the minister of Emiri Diwan Naser Almohammad to be prime minister.


Main article: Cabinet of Kuwait

Prime Minister has been Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah since 4 December 2011.

The Government Ministers are:

  • First Deputy Premier, Defense and Interior Minister:
  • Deputy Premier, Foreign Minister: Muhammad Al-Sabah
  • Deputy Premier, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs: Faisal Boukhadour
  • Finance Minister: Mustafa Al Shamali
  • Communications Minister, and Minister of Religious Endowment and Islamic Affairs: Abdallah Al Muhaylbi
  • Minister for Social Affairs and Labor, and Justice Minister: Jamal Al Shihab
  • Information Minister: Sabah Al Sabah
  • Minister for Amiri Diwan Affairs: Nasir Al Sabah]]
  • Housing Minister, and State Minister of National Assembly Affairs: Abdulwahid Al Awadhi
  • Oil Minister, and Minister of Electricity and Water: Mohammad Al Ulaym
  • Commerce and Industry Minister: Falah Al Hajeri
  • Health Minister: Abdallah Rahman Tawil
  • Public Works Minister, and State Minister for Municipality Affairs: Mousa Abdullah Al Sarraf
  • Education Minister: Nouriya Al-Subaih

Political parties and elections[edit]

For other political parties see List of political parties in Kuwait. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Kuwait.

The constitution calls for new elections to be held at a maximum interval of four years (or earlier if the parliament is dissolved). Kuwait has universal adult suffrage for Kuwaiti citizens who are 21 or older, with the exception of (1) those who currently serve in the armed or police forces, (2) citizens who have been naturalized for fewer than 20 years.[1] The franchise was expanded to include women on May 16, 2005. In 1996 naturalized citizens were given the right to vote, but only after they had been naturalized for at least 30 years.

It can be difficult to summarize Kuwaiti election results because most candidates run as independents. In the 2003 elections the liberal/left Minbar al-Dimuqrati group lost both the seats it held in the 1999 parliament.

Once elected, many deputies form voting blocs in the National Assembly. Kuwaiti law does not recognize political parties. However, numerous major political groupings function as parties in elections, and there are blocs in the parliament. Several political groups act as de facto parties: the liberal/leftist group, the merchants, the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist group, a populist group, and so forth.

Judicial branch[edit]

The Judiciary in Kuwait is an independent body. In each administrative district of Kuwait there is a Summary Court (also called Courts of First Instance which are composed of one or more divisions, like a Traffic Court or an Administrative Court); then there is Court of Appeals; Cassation Court and lastly - a Constitutional Court which interprets the constitution and deals with disputes related to the constitutionality of laws. Kuwait has a civil law system.


External links[edit]