People wearing protective masks wait to cast their votes at a polling station in Kuwait City on Saturday. (Noufal Ibrahim/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

On Saturday, Kuwait held its first National Assembly election since the September ascension of Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah as emir. Historically, Kuwait has held the freest and most competitive elections among the Arab Gulf States. Despite concerns that the pandemic would deter voters from participating in the election, nearly 70 percent of citizens participated.

Analysts were surprised that 24 out of 43 incumbents lost their seats, though this figure is consistent with previous elections and incumbent reelection and electoral volatility in other non-democracies. Overall, 326 candidates ran for 50 seats across five districts. Public gatherings were prohibited because of the pandemic, though many candidates appeared to ignore these restrictions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mourners carry the body of Sheikh Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah at Sulaibikhat Cemetery in Kuwait City on Wednesday. (Kuna/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Tuesday, Kuwait’s 91-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah died. The reins of authority in this ruling monarchy have passed to his half-brother and crown prince, 83-year-old Sheikh Nawaf Ahmed al-Sabah. Kuwaitis now wonder, given the new emir’s advanced age, whom he will designate as the new crown prince and heir apparent.

The last Kuwaiti succession, in 2006, triggered a mild political crisis. This one could be far worse. Who becomes the next crown prince, and thus who rules Kuwait next, will affect four long-simmering tensions that reflect deep political conflicts and popular frustrations.

Of course, any uncertainty involving succession within a ruling monarchy inevitably triggers red flags.…  Seguir leyendo »

Safa Al Hashem MP holds a red rose to mark Valentine's Day at the National Assembly in Kuwait City on February 14, 2017, the year a domestic violence bill was first introduced. Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images.

Domestic violence has always been a complex issue in Kuwaiti culture, often tied to norms and beliefs relating to family structures and concepts of guardianship, honour and discipline. As with other forms of abuse within the family, it is also considered a private matter and therefore not addressed publicly.

Despite a lack of up to date figures, the problem is widespread, affecting 53.1% of women in Kuwait according to a 2018 study. But Kuwait’s last submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) showed only 447 domestic violence cases had been through the court system in 2016, and only 76 of those resulted in a conviction.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of Kuwait’s National Assembly during the inauguration of the 14th Legislative Term of the National Assembly in Kuwait in 2012. (Gustavo Ferrari/AP)

Kuwait’s entire cabinet resigned Monday, less than a week after the opening of its parliament — and following the interrogation of one of its members during a parliamentary session.

Under Kuwait’s constitution, the prime minister’s resignation triggers the resignation or removal of the entire cabinet — and the prime minister on Monday submitted his resignation to Kuwait’s emir, who accepted it. The parliament’s speaker announced that the legislative body will not meet until a new parliament is seated, and in the meantime, the current cabinet will act as an interim caretaker cabinet.

The process of selecting a new cabinet is expected to take a few weeks.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the great jihadi funding bazaar that is the Gulf state of Kuwait, there’s a terror finance option for every pocket, from the private foundations dealing in tens of millions to the more retail end of the market. Give enough for 50 sniper bullets (50 dinars, about £110), promises the al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked cleric tweeting under the name “jahd bmalk”, and you will earn “silver status”. Donate 100 dinars to buy eight badly needed mortar rounds, and he’ll make you a “gold status donor”.

As the jihadi funders hand out loyalty cards, the West has belatedly realised that some of its supposed friends in the Gulf have been playing the disloyalty card.…  Seguir leyendo »

This summer, disgruntled Saudis took their grievances online in droves, complaining of ever-growing inequality, rising poverty, corruption and unemployment. Their Twitter campaign became one of the world’s highest trending topics. It caused great alarm within elite circles in Saudi Arabia and sent ripples throughout the region. The rallying cry that “salaries are not enough” helped to prove that the monarchy’s social contract with its people is now publicly coming unstuck, and on a significant scale.

Many experts believe that the Gulf states have survived the Arab Spring because they are different. After all, they’ve weathered numerous past storms — from the Arab nationalist revolutions of the 1950s and ’60s to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait to an Al Qaeda terror campaign in 2003.…  Seguir leyendo »

A few weeks ago, while I was being interrogated by Kuwait's public prosecution, I said I had the right to directly address the head of state and disclose my opinions of his policies and decisions. The investigator, however, regarded this as a punishable crime deserving 10 days of imprisonment, pending an investigation. I was sent to prison and accused of insulting the emir.

Massive protests against my imprisonment erupted, despite the special forces' attempts to stop them with teargas and stun grenades. The next morning, my lawyers appealed the public prosecution's decision before a judge. I was released on bail and banned from leaving the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Tahar Ben Jelloum, escritor. Premio Goncourt 1987. Traducción: José María Puig de la Bellacasa (LA VANGUARDIA, 06/07/06):

Las elecciones legislativas celebradas en Kuwait el pasado 30 de junio demuestran, una vez más, que la democracia no es una técnica limitada al ejercicio del voto, sino una cultura necesitada de tiempo y pedagogía para asentarse en un país y, sobre todo, impregnar las maneras de pensar y calar en las costumbres y hábitos de una sociedad. En todo caso, tampoco se trata de reprochar a los kuwaitíes un ensayo acompañado del aroma de la democracia, al tiempo que los Estados Unidos de Bush proceden a poner en práctica sobre el terreno la tesis de la llamada exportación de la democracia en el mundo árabe.…  Seguir leyendo »