Politics of Kuwait
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politics and government of
The Constitution of Kuwait was ratified in 1962 and has elements of a presidential and a parliamentary system of government. The constitution stipulates that Kuwait must have an elected legislature (the National Assembly parliament). The Emir is the head of state and can appoint the prime minister, however the appointment of the prime minister requires the approval of the National Assembly parliament.
The Kuwaiti parliament (per article 4 of the Constitution) has the constitutional right to approve and disapprove of an Emir's appointment, therefore the parliament has the authority to remove an Emir from his post. The parliament effectively removed Saad al-Sabah from his post in 2006 due to his illness.
Citizens who have reached the age of 21 years can vote. Parliamentary candidates must be eligible to vote and at least 30 years old. The Constitution expressly supports political parties, but they remain illegal as no law has arisen to define and regulate them. MPs tend to serve as independents or as members of de facto political parties and factions based on ideology, sect, social class or clan.
Legislative branch (the Parliament)
The National Assembly (Kuwaiti parliament) has a significant role in the governance of Kuwait. The National Assembly has the power to enact and repeal public policy, create and repeal all legislation, remove ministers from their post and remove an Emir from his post. The National Assembly is the main legislative power in Kuwait. For example, in May 1999, the Emir issued several milestone decrees. The National Assembly rejected all of these decrees.
The National Assembly (per article 4 of the Constitution) has the constitutional right to approve and disapprove of an Emir's appointment, therefore the National Assembly has the authority to remove an Emir from his post. The National Assembly effectively removed Saad al-Sabah from his post in 2006 because of Saad's inability to rule due to illness. Kuwait's National Assembly is the most independent parliament in the Arab world, it ranks highly in comparison to other parliaments in the Middle East as a whole.
The appointment of a new government requires the approval of the National Assembly. At least one member of the cabinet 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.
The appointment of a crown prince requires approval by an absolute majority of the members of the 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 National Assembly selects one to be the crown prince.
The National Assembly 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 MP.
The cabinet ministers have the same rights as the elected MPs, with the following two exceptions: they do not participate in the work of committees, and they cannot vote when an interpolation leads to a no-confidence vote against one of the cabinet members. MPs frequently exercise their constitutional right to question cabinet members. The National Assembly's interrogation sessions of cabinet ministers are aired on Kuwaiti TV. The appointment of a new prime minister requires the approval of the National Assembly. MPs also have the right to question the prime minister, and then table a motion of non-cooperation with the government, in which case the cabinet must get replaced.
The Constitutional Court and Emir both have the authority to dissolve the house and must subsequently call for new elections within two months. The Constitutional Court is judicially independent and is widely believed to be one of the most judicially independent courts in the Arab world. The Constitutional Court has dissolved the house several times, most recently in 2013. The Emir has dissolved the house on five separate occasions.
The appointment of a new prime minister requires the approval of the National Assembly. A new government requires a positive vote of confidence from the National Assembly. The appointment of a new government requires the approval of an absolute majority of MPs in the National Assembly parliament.
At least one member of the cabinet 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 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'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 appointment of a crown prince must be approved by an absolute majority of the members of the 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 National Assembly selects one to be the crown prince.
Parliament removes Emir
In January 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 Sabah on January 15, 2006.
The cabinet nominated the previous Prime Minister, Sabah 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.
The National Assembly consists of fifty MPs who are elected in districts using the first past the post voting method. The major factions, de facto political parties, are;
- National Democratic Alliance - Secular, neo-liberal faction. Has its own TV channel, Nabeeha Tahalof, and publishes the daily newspaper Al-Jarida.
- Popular Action Bloc - Nationalists, populists and progressives. Tend to focus on a populist issues, i.e. funding for housing.
- Democratic Foundation of Kuwait - is a leftist political faction which is composed of social democrats, pan Arabs and liberals. The faction operate a weekly newspaper called Al-Talea. Its candidates are usually backed by the Youth Association of Kuwait, its de facto youth arm.
- Hadas - Sunni Islamists. Commonly known as the Islamic Constitutional Movement and has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
- National Islamic Alliance - Moderate Shia Islamists, focus on populist issues.
- Justice and Peace Alliance - Shia liberals and moderates.
- Independents - No affiliation and tend to be supportive of the government.
- Robert F. Worth (2008). "In Democracy Kuwait Trusts, but Not Much". New York Times.
- Nathan J. Brown. "Mechanisms of accountability in Arab governance: The present and future of judiciaries and parliaments in the Arab world". p. 16-18.
- Eran Segal. "Kuwait Parliamentary Elections: Women Making History". Tel Aviv Notes. p. 1.
- "Kuwait court ruling may threaten economic recovery". Reuters. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.