“I will not allow the state to be destroyed.” The Emir of Kuwait suspends some articles of the constitution and dissolves Parliament

In a move that caused widespread reactions, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, announced the dissolution of Parliament and the suspension of articles in the constitution for a period that may extend to four years, in decisions that cast a shadow over the political street in the country, raising questions about the future of the democratic experience in the Gulf state, which is considered one One of the last strongholds of semi-democracy in the Middle East.

“I will not allow democracy to be exploited to destroy the state,” Emir Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said in a televised speech on Friday, declaring that the recent period of political turmoil requires “difficult decisions to save the country.”

The prince also suspended several articles of the constitution, and said the transitional period would be used to review “all aspects of the democratic process,” during which the prince and the Council of Ministers would assume legislative powers for the 50-member parliament.

These decisions came a month after elections in which Kuwaitis voted for a new parliament. While the Kuwaiti legislative institution has been dissolved repeatedly, most recently by Sheikh Mishal last February, the suspension of Parliament has only occurred twice in the country’s history, in 1976 and 1986.

‘Prolonged crisis’

Kuwait has been experiencing successive crises for years due to ongoing disputes and conflicts between governments appointed by the Emir and directly elected parliaments, which has hindered economic reform efforts and greatly disrupted the development projects that the country needs, according to Reuters.

Kuwaiti political analyst, Qais Al-Usta, believes that the recent decision “was one of the options presented in light of the political stalemate,” noting that “the political crisis in Kuwait was increasing,” which required intervention from the Emir of the country.

Al-Usta explains in a statement to Al-Hurra website that the crisis “is not emerging today, but has been continuing for years,” and has resulted in “a blockage in the country’s political horizon in light of the ongoing state of controversy between the legislative and executive authorities.”

Kuwait elected a new parliament, on the fourth of last April, making it the fourth since December 2020, and two days later, the government of Sheikh Muhammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah resigned as a procedural step after the elections.

The elections resulted in limited change, represented by the entry of 11 new representatives out of 50 elected members of Parliament, while the opposition in Kuwait maintained its majority in the Council, which suggested the possibility of a continuation of the political stalemate, after the first elections during the era of the new Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

In this regard, the Kuwaiti analyst says that some parliamentary representatives have practiced, in recent years, “abusive use of power and resorted to unacceptable behavior.”

Al-Usta stresses that “this does not mean that successive governments did not commit mistakes on their part,” but on the contrary, both parties had “a role in the crisis,” sometimes through deals between members of the two institutions, which led to sagging and poor services in the country.

“The prince’s displeasure”

Sheikh Mishal attributed the decisions to dissolve the National Assembly and suspend the work of some articles of the Constitution for a period not exceeding four years to the “interference” of some representatives in the powers of the Emir and the imposition of others “conditions” on forming a government.

He said in his speech: “We have faced difficulties and obstacles that cannot be tolerated and remain silent about,” adding: “We find some people going so far as to interfere in the heart of the prince’s powers and his choice of his crown prince, forgetting that this is an explicit constitutional right of the prince.”

The decision to dissolve came 4 days before the opening of the National Assembly, which was elected in early April, and after representatives refused to participate in the government.

In this aspect, the political writer, Ayed Al-Manna, says that the Emir of the country expressed his “dissatisfaction” with the members of the National Assembly and their interference in the powers of the head of state with regard to the mandate of the Crown and the Prime Minister and also setting requirements for ministers even before they take office, and not interacting with the requirement for the presence of one member at the meeting. Less than the National Assembly in the government composition.

The Kuwaiti analyst added, in a statement to the Al-Hurra website, that the reason for the recent decision was “to end the state of instability witnessed in the political arena in Kuwait, as the situation required “a pause for review and correction.”

The same spokesman expected a return to parliamentary status again, but with a “constitutional formula that is more disciplined and enables the two authorities to cooperate without interfering in the powers and affairs of the other.”

‘A setback for democracy’

On the other hand, the Washington Post reported that the recent Emiri decisions “raised fears that they may represent a move toward dismantling one of the last semi-democratic political systems in the Middle East.”

The American newspaper quoted Michael Herb, professor of political science at Georgia State University, as saying that this is “a serious setback for democracy in the Middle East,” adding that “this suspension of Parliament threatens to make Kuwait authoritarian like the rest of the Gulf monarchies.”

He continued, “There is still hope that the state will take a different path. After the two previous suspensions, Parliament was eventually restored.”

For his part, Kuwaiti political analyst Al-Manna points to the country’s previous experiences in dissolving Parliament and suspending some articles of the Constitution, stressing that the legislative institution regained its full activity after the end of the suspension period for the first time in 1976, and also after that when parliamentary life returned to its previous state after its suspension in 1986. However, he explains that the experiences of recent years “proved the need for change.”

The political analyst says that the country’s parliamentary experience needs to be “purified so that it returns to a better state than it was,” noting that the political leadership “will not sacrifice parliamentary life and constitutional controls,” recalling the Emir’s speech, two years ago, that “the constitution is in the hidden treasure.”

The Washington Post stated that although Kuwait “is still far from achieving full democracy, as it is ruled by a hereditary system and does not allow partisan activity, it stands out as a striking exception in the Middle East region that is witnessing growing repression.”

Amid the democratic decline that has affected several Arab countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, more than a decade after the Arab Spring uprisings, Kuwait, according to the newspaper, still represents “an alternative that has the elements for building a democratic process.”

In this context, the political analyst, Al-Usta, confirms that Kuwaiti democracy, despite its “flaws,” is referred to as Lebanon at the regional level, as it constituted a protection for the multiple sources of power and relative freedom in the country.

This is why the Kuwaiti analyst says that although Kuwait is going through “some stumbling that is losing its democratic luster,” he is confident that democracy will continue, after the required reforms are implemented and the country returns to normal as soon as possible.

Al-Hurra website tried to communicate with a number of former Kuwaiti representatives as well as other political analysts, but they refused to respond to Al-Hurra website’s questions regarding their readings and opinions on the recent developments.

Commenting on the issue, Sultan Al-Amer, a Saudi researcher in political science who lives in the United States, wrote on He has long sold this issue and we are all for each other.”

For his part, Sean Yeom, associate professor of political science at Temple University, said he was “concerned about how to deal with the local opposition now.”

He asked: “What happens to political critics and opposition blocs if they do not have a parliament, which has always embodied pluralism in Kuwaiti society?”

The position of the economy in the midst of political developments

In his speech on Friday, Sheikh Mishal, who came to power in December after the death of the former Emir, regretted that “the unhealthy atmosphere that Kuwait experienced in previous years encouraged the spread of corruption to reach most of the state’s facilities and even to the security and economic institutions, unfortunately.” He even violated the facility of justice,” indicating that the judiciary is capable of “purifying itself.”

He said, “Everyone must know that no one is above the law. Anyone who unlawfully obtains public money will be punished, regardless of his position or capacity.”

These political moves come amid several challenges, especially with successive governments in Kuwait seeking to implement a reform plan approved in 2018 to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on black gold, while analysts indicate that political reforms are necessary in the next stage, according to Agence France-Presse.

Disagreements prevented Parliament from approving reforms aimed at diversifying the economy, while recurring budget deficits and weak foreign investment exacerbated the tensions.

Kuwait is one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil, but the lack of political stability has reduced investors’ appetite, according to Agence France-Presse.

Kuwait, which borders Saudi Arabia and Iraq, owns seven percent of the world’s crude oil reserves. It has little debt and manages one of the world’s most powerful sovereign wealth funds.

The prince said, “The interests of the people of Kuwait come above all else and are entrusted to us, and we need to preserve and protect them.”

Observers expressed optimism that the suspension of Parliament could break the political deadlock in the country, giving the government space to implement its agenda without hindrance.

In this context, Clemens Chai, a research fellow at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, points out that “important policies, such as the national budget, have been delayed and hampered by dysfunctional policies.”

For his part, Badr Al-Saif, assistant professor of history at Kuwait University, said on the Conflicts and decisive confrontation occur. Wisdom and true national dialogue are needed to engage in a comprehensive constitution-writing process.”

He added: “Amending the Constitution to some extent has been attempted (and failed) before during the periods of suspension of articles of Parliament between 1976-1981 and 1986-1992. The onus is on the current administration to show how things will be different this time. Now, there is a lot of “Expectations from the executive authority to improve the conditions of Kuwait.”

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