Government of Kuwait

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The State of Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a semi-democratic political system, consisting of the popularly-elected parliament and executive branch (government and Emir).

The Constitution of Kuwait, approved and promulgated in November 1962, calls for direct elections to a unicameral parliament (the National Assembly). Kuwait's judicial system is the most independent in the Gulf region and the Constitutional Court is widely believed to be one of the most judicially independent courts in the Arab world.[1]

Legislative branch (Parliament)[edit]

The National Assembly is the legislature (main legislative power) in Kuwait.[2] The National Assembly's most significant accountability mechanism is the ability to remove ministers from their post.

The National Assembly can have up to 50 MPs. 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, 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 interpellate cabinet members. The National Assembly's interpellation sessions of cabinet ministers are aired on Kuwaiti TV. MPs also have the right to interpellate the prime minister, and then table a motion of non-cooperation with the government, in which case the cabinet must get replaced.

The National Assembly (per article 4 of the Constitution) has the constitutional right to approve and disapprove of an Emir's appointment. 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,[3] it is among the strongest parliaments in the Middle East.[4]

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 widely believed to be one of the most judicially independent courts in the Arab world.[1] The Constitutional Court has dissolved the house several times, most recently in 2013. The Emir has dissolved the house on five separate occasions.

Executive branch[edit]


Main article: Cabinet of Kuwait

The Emir appoints the prime minister, who in turn chooses the cabinet (government). The appointment of a new government requires the approval of the National Assembly, because a new government requires a positive vote of confidence from 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.

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. The 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. Upon the death of the Emir, the crown prince succeeds.

January 2006[edit]

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 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.


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. The franchise was expanded to include women in May 2005. In 1996 naturalized citizens were given the right to vote, but only after they had been naturalized for at least 30 years.

Once elected, many deputies form voting blocs in the National Assembly. Kuwaiti law does not recognize political parties. However, numerous political groups function as de facto political parties in elections, and there are blocs in the parliament. Major de facto political parties include: National Democratic Alliance, Popular Action Bloc, Hadas (Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood), National Islamic Alliance and Justice and Peace Alliance.

Judicial branch[edit]

The judiciary in Kuwait is a relatively 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 legal system.

See also[edit]