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Kuwaiti Elections: Islamists Rise And Start of Real Democracy
The Kuwaiti parliamentary elections (KPE) represent a critical turning point towards real democratic
Wednesday, July 5,2006 00:00
by El-Said Ramadan, Ikhwanweb

The Kuwaiti parliamentary elections (KPE) represent a critical turning point towards real democratic Kuwait, KPE were a real struggle against administrative and financial corruption prevailing in Kuwait. The election results explicitly assure the Arabs complete trust in the Islamist candidates, considering them an anti-corruption symbol.

 

This is the third election in the Arabic region affirming the insistence of voting for the Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood "MB"); in Palestine (Hamas’ victory and instituting the government), in Egypt (88 MPs) then the Islamists landslide victory in Kuwait and the expected big win of Moroccan Justice and Development Party.

Will the Arab arena witness a great presence of Islamists escalating the political alteration!!!?

This report tackles the significant results of KPE

 

Terms of this report:

 

* Definition of the Kuwaiti National Assembly.

* Political coalitions in Kuwait.

* Analysis of recent election results.

* Problems facing the winners.

* Important indicators.

The Kuwaiti National Assembly (KNA)

KNA goes back to 1961 elections, due to the constitutional council which composed a draft for the constitution and a basis for 1963 elections that formed the first national assembly. 1963 elections resulted in a strong opposition in the national bloc facing the government policy in many fields. The opposition had a real powerful presence in 1967 elections, when they accused the government of forging elections in an attempt to restrict the parliament. The new council proved to be more flexible.

 

As for 1971 election, it resulted in a stronger council, because they did their best to nationalize Oil Companies, but the opposition in1975 elections were more intensified than the latter one. In August, 1976, the prince broke the parliament up and set forth restrictions on public gatherings and freedom of opinion. In 1980 parliamentary elections of the fifth council took place, then the sixth in 1985.

In 1986, the council attacked the government, especially the way it tackled the financial atmosphere market crisis, so the prince re-suspended the parliament, more over, the minister of Justice  had to resign due to allegations of badly using his position for his own benefit when tackling the crisis.

The opposition objected to the re-suspending decision in the Constitutional Movement in 1989- 1990; in 1989, members of the cancelled council called for the parliament sessions to reformulate the constitution of 1962 and 1986 in which the parliament was suspended.

Due to strong presence of opposition, the prince yielded- in an attempt to divide them- and proposed a new council including 50 elected member and 25 appointed, so that the MPs would be fewer than the old one, and their power would be less, in order not to make laws.

Though the opposition boycotted the elections, the new council convened after the non- specified members’ elections in June 1990. In 1992 the KNA was re-elected according to 1962; consequently, seven political blocs were formed. The Kuwaiti parliament has a significant role in monitoring and answering the government.

The KNA is formed of 50 members through ballots according to the set election rules. The unelected ministers in the KNA are considered members of this council due to their jobs, the number of ministers doesn’t exceed the third of the whole members of NA

The KNA term is four AD. years since its commencement, the renewal is to be held 60 days prior to the end of the term observing the 107 Article.

The members whose membership terminated may be reelected. The legislative term can’t be resumed except in wars, and according to a set law.

1-       The membership remains valid till the end of the council term, unless any contra- reasons arise.

2-        The KNA has the right to validate its members’ elections. Election can’t be invalidated without the majority of council members.

 

 

Political coalitions in Kuwait

 

3-       Islamists (Salafis- MBs- Shiites- others)

4-       Liberals (Minbar "pulpit"- popular- National)

5-       Nasserists

6-       The Constitutional Coalition

7-       Electoral blocs

8-       Interest- based blocs

 

The Kuwaiti political arena is busy with political blocs and trends, freely expressing themselves, inspite of the ban on forming political parties and coalitions. The existence of freely elected parliament and municipal councils, which have great liabilities up to ousting ministers and cabinet, and refusing the prince decisions, surely invigorates the situation, especially, the relative freedom of press.

These blocs, though being illegal, the government didn’t bother them any way, such as calling their founders to investigation, or hindering their gatherings.

Due to the government ignorance of such coalitions, the political arena witnessed the emergence of many blocs- from time to time- dealing with media and distributing their mouthpiece statements concerning the current events. The Kuwaiti political chart includes the following trends:

1- The Islamists:

   A widespread trend including diverse powers:

(a) The Sunni Muslims:

 1-Salafis: since four this trend was only one current, following "Heritage Surviving Society (HSS)"-one of the public beneficiary Islamic societies- but political and intellectuals disputes led to division into two groups:

(b) The Salafis coalition: including the majority of Salafis, following the HSS with which it refuses to link itself in media because, the Kuwaiti law restricts the public beneficiary societies from intervening in policy or election. Officially the Salafis coalition has two members in the current parliament: Ahmad Baqer, the resigned minister of Waqfs (Endowments), and Ahmad Aldu’aig, they were among 22 Salafi- backed candidates.

 

(c) The Salafi Movement: Due to certain intellectual disputes, since three years, it separated from the main Salafi trend. It was founded by several academic Muslims, top of which were Dr. Abdul-raziq Alshaigi, deputy of Shari’a faculty, its current general secretary Dr.Hakem Almatary, and the former one Dr.Hamed Alali.

The Salafi Movement firstly appeared under the name of "the Scientific Salafis", but this year it changed to "The Salafis Movement", the MP Dr. Waleed Altabtaba’ee is close to it. The movement backed 19 candidates in the recent elections. It was confused when Dr. Abdul-raziq Alshaigi, its spokesperson, resigned from his leading positions due to internal disputes about the candidates to be backed in the elections. Alshaigi says that the movement didn’t follow the criteria set for candidates’ choice, and backed non-efficient persons, in the same time the whole leaders of the movement insist that they did follow the set criteria.

(2) The Constitutional Movement

Includes a trend adherent to MB, emerged from Social Reform Society, the vastest society in Kuwait, and presided by Sheikh Abdullah Ali Almutawei’. The movement had 4 MPs in the last parliament: Dr.muhammad Albaseiry, spokesperson, Mubarak Alduwailat, Dr. Naser Alnase’, member of the executive bureau, and  Mubarak Sunaidah. The movement declared to back 15 candidates in the recent elections.

(3) The Islamic National Coalition

Represents the Shiite organizational trend, in 1996, its leading figures participated in the elections without uniting with any trend. It is constituted of Islamic and public national groups- some of it is adhered to the Shiite referential thought, including its different party orientations and applications. This trend faced critical situations among stern fundamentalists, liberals and the government- backed ones, and that sharpened the competition.

 

(4) Islamic powers, suddenly appeared and quickly vanished

From time to time, Kuwait witnesses an emergence of new blocs and coalitions led by certain persons. They represent small groups with special opinions, when it first appears there is a media hype, but soon it disappears and occasionally come out to the people. Such as:

(a)      Shura (consultation) Advocates Assembly (SAA):

Declared in 13 May 1997, by Dr. Abdulaziz Almuzaini (Academician). In the assembly’s constitution statement, Almuzaini called to replace democracy with Shura, accusing the other Islamic trends saying" SAA considers that The Islamic Constitutional Movement (MB) and Heritage Surviving Society (HSS)"Salafis" and others were all entrapped in Democracy either by lack of knowledge, ignorance or political tactics.

 

 (B) Justice bloc: late in May 1997, it was declared in a press conference held by the founders, a group of academicians and independents who said" the bloc’s based on the enlightened view of Islam, avoiding dogmatism and keeping up with the Islamic renewing movement". Like SAA, the bloc didn’t participate politically since its establishment, and did not even develop since then.

2- Liberals

Includes a mixture of nationals and leftists, it has a grass root but not the same way it appears in the media. It has a strong media means because it dominates many positions in private and governmental media.

This trend includes: 

1-Minbar al-Dimuqrati group

 The greatest bloc in this trend, some political analysts consider it the other face for Leftists, and some call it"Atale’a (the vanguards)", naming it after its weekly mouthpiece. But the leftists’ principles do no longer exist in Alminbar’s speech, especially after the collapse of Communism, but the bloc’s principles became based on human rights, freedom of innovation and thought, and women rights. it has two representatives in the parliament, Abdullah Alnebry and its former general secretary, Samy Almanis.  

Abdullah Alnebry and the son of its former general secretary, Ahmad Almanis were the only official candidates. As for its leaders, such as Dr.Ahmad Alreb’i, the ex-minister of education, Saad bin Tuflah and others, they ran for the elections as independents.

2- The Liberal Popular Coalition

appeared inside the current parliament (1990), it was declared by six MPs- attributed themselves as" patriots working in favor of the people as well as being liberals". Its prominent leaders are Ahmad Alsa’doon, the ex- head of KNA, and Muslim Albarak.

The mass interests are the core of its public speech; it is described of having a rough manner in both proposal and criticism. It backed six candidates in the elections as well as Ahmad Alsa’doon and Muslim Albarak  

1-       The National Democratic Coalition (NDA)

      The way SAA and Justice blocs appeared suddenly, is the same way the NDA appeared. In May 1997, the NDA founders declared a date for the bloc’s constitutional statement.

The founders’ list included 75 of businessmen, media, political and academic figures, who were described by the analysts as a new coalition for liberals, but the founders refuted that immediately asserting their independency, and that their coalition was open, national and independent.

The political arena expected the coalition to have a vast activity, because it included prominent figures and was permitted to release a weekly economic magazine (the future). The founders asked to constitute a public beneficiary society to work legally under its umbrella.

Though their founders insist that they do exist strongly in the political arena, this coalition was frozen and marginalized like the other coalitions which suddenly appeared

3- Nasserists

The first time to declare a Nasserist bloc in Kuwait was in 1992 elections, but it faced a fatal failure in elections, even its leaders, such as Jasem Alqattamy. Soon, after its leaders’ disappearance, the bloc vanished

  

Fourth: Constitutional coalition

It represents the historic political trend of Kuwait chamber of commerce and industry. It participated in 1992 parliamentary elections and was represented by Mohammad Jasim Al Saqer, but the rally has refrained from participating directly in 1996 elections. Instead, the rally supported a number of candidates and two of them had won in the elections, namely Abdullah Al-Nibari a prominent leader of liberal/left Minbar al-Dimuqrati group and the Independent candidate Abdul Wahab al-Haroun.

 

Fifth: Election Coalitions

The parliamentary elections offer a golden opportunity to declare the formation of election coalitions and political blocs. Some analysts consider such blocs as a real test to produce a party variety representing the features of Kuwait political map.

Besides the current blocs the election process presents pre-election coalitions, some of them continue inside the parliament even after the process is over. In 1985 elections the (1985 bloc of deputies) came to light headed by Ahmed Al Saadoon, but at the very moment of entering the parliament and winning in the elections, this coalition vanished. 

 

 

Sixth: Interest-based Blocs

Among the characteristics of 1996 elections came the emergence of new unfamiliar type of coalitions. These coalitions depended on the common interests or the inherited tribalism, not on adopting a certain political thought.

Among the most prominent blocs came:

 

 

The Indebted Merchant bloc

It included a large number of merchants who suffered major losses in 1983 Black Monday of Al-Manakh Stock Market. The losses amounted to 22 milliard dollars on that day. Consequently, 9000 persons had to contract loans, each according to one’s loss and ability to meet this loan.

The indebted merchants who were great economic entities thought that they can solve their problem through the national assembly. Therefore they formed this bloc to defend and protect their interests, especially after 45% of them had been referred to public prosecution. Actually, they won a seat in the parliament.

 

2- The naturalized Group

Naturalized citizens in Kuwait are those people who had dual nationality. They came to Kuwait in 1920. Under Kuwait’s citizenship law, enacted in the late 1950s, they were deprived of the right to vote or to be elected. This matter resulted in a form of political discrimination and casteism within the Kuwaiti society which has been reflected in the nature of peoples’ participation in Kuwait.

 

The naturalized people have formed a bloc to support their political rights. This bloc has contributed to the winning of some tribal candidates who supported it. Similarly, it has contributed to the defeat of those who stood against its rights such as Abbas Monawir who was deep-rooted Member of Parliament since the initial constituent assembly. 

 

3- Government

There is no clear-cut figure of a governmental political bloc that is known by name and effective role in the Kuwaiti political arena.

The government has never showed its support for any side or any candidates. It never happened that the government rigged the election results. However, this does not mean that the government did not attempt to help pro-government candidates enter the parliament. It did so quietly and through tactics and agreements without resorting to any illegal methods.

The above mentioned elements are the most notable features of Kuwaiti political map which may not be consistent all time. We find Islamists and secularists at variance; that resulted in vitality and a continuous activity which may turn into fierce competition and sometimes turn to a duel of opinions and trends. 

 

Overview of the recent elections

Kuwaiti Parliamentary elections are over now after the declaration of final results on Friday.

The opposition, dominated by Islamists, won 33 seats of total 50 with addition of 4 seats to the number of their seats in the previous parliament. Actually, Islamists won 21 seats instead of the 18 of last parliament. The number of pro-government members of parliament has been reduced to 13 instead of the 19 seats of previous parliamentary session and Women did not win any seat.

 

Observers and analysts see these results with a 38 % change in the new parliament as a clear message to the government expressing people’s strong desire for reform.

The Islamist winners in these elections are 17 Sunni, 4 Shiite persons; thereby the Shiites had lost one seat in comparison with the previous parliament.

The opposition can depend on more three independent members of parliament to support the call for amending the electoral law and redistrict the country into 5 electoral constituencies rather than 25.

 

Rise of Islamists

 

 

Among the most important results of Kuwaiti elections is this great and unexpected rise of Islamists. Dr Naser al-Sania`, a member of executive bureau of Islamic constitutional movement, relates that success to the good choice of Islamist candidates and using effective techniques and programs in conducting the election process, in addition to the nature of Kuwaiti people who is inclined to Islamists.

 

Kuwaiti women: Great votes in the interest of men

Although Women made up 57 percent of the Kuwait’s electorate of 340,000 persons, none of the twenty-eight female candidates won any seat.  This is the first time for Kuwaiti women to have the right to vote and to be elected.

In these elections, Rolla Dashti got the best result among 28 female candidates; she got more than 1540 votes, and then came Nabila al-`Angari who got 1056,

 

On May 2005, Parliament gave women the right to vote and to be elected in National Assembly election. Actually, women have this right in four countries only of the Gulf region. In Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted to vote, and there are no political elections in United Arab Emirates.

Although, it is the first experience for women in political practice and women did not win any seat, yet this experience showed how great is the weight and significance of women votes. This significance can be deduced from the voting turnout of women. Moreover, this experience revealed the inclination of women voters to reformists led by Islamists.

 

Combating corruption

Most of candidates’ campaigns focused on combating financial and administrative corrupting that spread recently within Kuwait.

Some analysts held that the debate sparked by a dispute over redistricting the country’s 25 electoral precincts and the fierce attack launched against government have led to the dissolving of parliament. In fact, the final results proved the peoples’ interest in putting forth and tackling such issues.

  

Issues before the winners

 

The winners in Kuwaiti legislative elections have to deal with a number of issues that impose a certain agenda for the four years to come. At the top of these issues comes the necessity to prove the truthfulness of their reformative election program. For example, a question has been put forth immediately after the declaration of final results concerning a real motive for more talking about reducing 25 electoral precincts to 5 only, especially after the reformists became a majority under the 25-election law! 

 Moreover, if the new members of reformists did not put forth this issue, will this mean they give up their reformative agenda which led them to the parliament?!

There are a lot of questions for the new reformists to answer. Undoubtedly, they can answer these questions, especially because the issue of reform in Kuwait is not limited to the matter of reducing electoral precincts. Rather, this matter is a small part of a bigger case that is election reform which in turn is a part of Reform issue. 

There are a lot of issues other than reducing electoral precincts. These issues include the problem of buying votes, the tribalism dominance and control over elections, how to activate the role of parliament members in addition to giving those who currently serve in the armed forces the right to vote, etc.

 Moreover, the social and political reform is broader and represents the most difficult issue before Islamists and reformists in Kuwait. Actually, there is a mutual understanding between Islamists and reformists in spite of their different ideologies (Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, Shiites, Liberals, etc). 

They have to deal with the issue of corruption in addition to the issue of administrative and governmental reform. These are critical issues due to their close connection with authority and its interests. Actually, the program of Islamic constitutional movement represented the start. It called for the administrative reform and considered the financial statement a first step on this way.

 

Moreover, there a lot of voices calling for long–term reform that includes a form of separation between the premiership and the family of al-Sabah. This reveals the complicatedness the new reformists have to deal with inside the national assembly.  

Moreover, the new parliament faces three essential problems which will determine the extent of its success.

They are:

1- The Kuwaiti stock market which is the second largest Arab market.

This market witnessed a severe collapse represented in major losses in 1983 Black Monday of Al-Manakh Stock Market. This collapse came as a result of corruption. Consequently, some investors are afraid of the reformists’ majority inside the new parliament which in turn manages the affairs and resolutions related to investment and huge enterprises in addition to money market.

 

2- The issue of foreign troops in Kuwait and Kuwaiti stance toward the Iraqi and Iranian situation. How will those new representatives deal with the governmental stance?

Will they accept it or adopt another one calling for the evacuation of these troops and adopting new policy in terms of Iraqi issue and Iranian nuclear crisis, especially in light of this strong representation of Islamists including Shiites in the parliament?

This is a difficult question because if the national assembly using its competence came to new arrangements inconsistent with the governmental inclination, this can lead to a conflict with security agreements the former Kuwaiti governments concluded with US, Britain, French and other European countries. Such agreements obligate Kuwait to support any of these European countries in case of any threat to their interests. This support includes receiving foreign troops or providing logistics.

 

Moreover, the adoption of a new policy toward the Iraqi or Iranian issue that is inconsistent with the US desire will lead to a clash with greatest powers. 

Generally, it is more likely that there will be no approach to foreign policy inside the Kuwaiti national assembly since the internal affairs are more urgent.

As for the third problem the new Parliament will face, it lies in the change in value systems within Kuwaiti society. There are many secular powers trying to legalize whorehouse under the pretext that the foreign employment amounts to double the number of Kuwaiti natives. Those workers have certain needs considered illegal by Muslims, but they are normal in the homelands of those workers. The same thing applies to drugs, liquors and porno clips.

 

Important indications

There were 252 candidates competing for 50 parliamentary seats. Twenty-eight candidates were women. The Kuwait’s electorate of 340,000 with 159,000 women making up 57 percent voted at 94 poll stations, 47 each for men and women. Among the candidates there were 28 reformists from the total 29 who initiated demand for reforming the electoral system and opposed the current system of distributing the country into 25 electoral constituencies, calling for reducing the number of districts into 5 electoral constituencies to encircle the electoral corruption.

 

The total turnout was 80 % of those entitled to vote. The 11th electoral district was the largest one in terms of total turnout and is located in an area with electorate of 30.970 persons including 19 thousand women but characterized by tribalism. 

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