Politics of Kuwait

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Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a semi-democratic political system.[1][2][3] The hybrid political system is divided between an elected parliament and appointed government (dominated by the ruling family).[1][4][5]

The Constitution of Kuwait was promulgated in 1962. Kuwait is among the Middle East's freest countries in civil liberties and political rights.[6][7][8][9] Freedom House rates the country as "Partly Free" in the Freedom in the World survey.[10] Kuwait is the only Gulf state that is ranked "partly free".[9]


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 parliament). The Emir is the head of state and can appoint the prime minister. 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 (Parliament)[edit]

The National Assembly is the legislature (main legislative power) in Kuwait.[11] The National Assembly's most significant power is the ability to remove ministers from their post.

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,[12] it is among the strongest parliaments in the Middle East.[13]

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, 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 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 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.[14] 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, 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.

January 2006[edit]

In January 2006, the Kuwaiti parliament voted to remove the ailing Emir Saad 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.

Political blocs[edit]

  • Popular Action Bloc - Populists and nationalists. Tend to focus on a populist issues, e.g. 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.
  • Independents - No affiliation and tend to be supportive of the government.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Kuwait's Democracy Faces Turbulence". Wall Street Journal. 
  2. ^ Selvik, Kjetil (2011). "Elite Rivalry in a Semi-Democracy: The Kuwaiti Press Scene". Middle Eastern Studies: 478. 
  3. ^ "Kuwait Country Report". Bertelsmann Foundation. 
  4. ^ Selvik, Kjetil (2011). "Elite Rivalry in a Semi-Democracy: The Kuwaiti Press Scene". Middle Eastern Studies 47 (3): 477–496. 
  5. ^ Ulrichsen, Kristian Coates (2014). "Politics and Opposition in Kuwait: Continuity and Change". Journal of Arabian Studies: Arabia, the Gulf, and the Red Sea 4 (2): 214–230. 
  6. ^ Ibrahim Ahmed Elbadawi, Atif Abdallah Kubursi. "Kuwaiti Democracy: Illusive or Resilient?" (PDF). American University of Beirut. p. 7. 
  7. ^ "Kuwait". Reporters without Borders. 
  8. ^ "Kuwait - The New York Times". New York Times. Kuwait has long ranked highly among Middle East nations for its protection of civil liberties, judicial independence and freedom of expression 
  9. ^ a b "Kuwait rated ‘partly free’ by Freedom House". Mubasher. 
  10. ^ "Freedom in the World: Kuwait". Freedom House. 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Robert F. Worth (2008). "In Democracy Kuwait Trusts, but Not Much". New York Times. 
  12. ^ Nathan J. Brown. "Mechanisms of accountability in Arab governance: The present and future of judiciaries and parliaments in the Arab world" (PDF). p. 16-18. 
  13. ^ Eran Segal. "Kuwait Parliamentary Elections: Women Making History" (PDF). Tel Aviv Notes. p. 1. 
  14. ^ "Kuwait court ruling may threaten economic recovery". Reuters. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 

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