On Tuesday, June 6, Kuwait held its seventh general election in just over 10 years. Opposition lawmakers won a majority, obtaining 29 of 50 parliamentary seats. While Tuesday’s vote came in response to the Kuwaiti constitutional court’s decision to annul last year’s election results, the makeup of the new parliament is quite similar, with 38 of 50 members retaining their seats. Regionally-based networks analyze how these results will impact Kuwait’s political gridlock, social services, and economy:
The Daily Sabah noted that Kuwait adopted a parliamentary system in 1962 and since then, “the legislature has been dissolved around a dozen times. While lawmakers are elected, Kuwait's cabinet ministers are installed by the ruling al-Sabah family, which maintains a strong grip over political life. Continual standoffs between the branches of government have prevented lawmakers from passing economic reforms, while repeated budget deficits and low foreign investment have added to an air of gloom."
According to the Qatar Tribune, the previous election, held in September 2022, called for change in leadership, “with a majority of incumbents exiting the chamber. But in March, the Constitutional Court annulled the decree dissolving the previous assembly, restoring the body that had been elected in 2020. The ruling family then dissolved that chamber a second time, setting up this week’s vote.”
In the recent elections, Al Arabiya highlighted, “opposition lawmakers won 29 of the legislature’s 50 seats... Only one woman was elected — opposition candidate Janan Bushehri. The make-up of the new parliament is very similar to the one elected last year and later annulled, with all but 12 of its 50 members retaining their seats.” The news that the makeup of parliament has changed only slightly has “sparked concerns that the legislature may once again find itself locked in disputes with the cabinet, further deepening a political crisis that has delayed reforms and hampered growth.”
Al Jazeera’s senior reporter Rob Matheson analyzed: “what that essentially means is Kuwait’s politics are still in deadlock and are not going to move.” Matheson also highlighted that election voter turnout barely reached 51 percent, showcasing “the level of dissatisfaction Kuwaitis have with the current political process.”
Janan Bushehri, the sole female member of the Parliament said she expected parliament “to seek stability and move ahead on outstanding issues, whether political or economic.” Lawmaker Adel Al-Damkhi echoed her positive outlook and told news sources: “We are celebrating today the (victory of the) reformist approach. The election results are an indication of the awareness of the Kuwaiti people.”
However, there are others who do not share this enthusiasm. Bader Al-Saif, assistant history professor at Kuwait University assessed that “the government has to contend with a more combative parliament than the already combative 2022 version.” He told Al-Monitor to “expect bumps in the road unless radical reforms unfold.”
According to Al Jazeera, Kuwait's “political gridlock has led to the decay of social services such as healthcare and education. Despite holding one of the world’s largest oil reserves and having a strong fiscal and external balance sheet, the turmoil has stalled much-needed investments and reforms.” Abdul Wahid Khalfan, a Kuwaiti political analyst, expressed that “the authorities in Kuwait must cooperate to create political stability … Lack of cooperation between the authorities will be reflected negatively internally and externally.”
Parliament’s ability to work productively with the Kuwaiti government has important implications on the economic future of the country. The Jordan Times illustrated that Kuwait “has little debt and one of the strongest sovereign wealth funds in the world. But its lack of stability has scared off investors and dashed hopes of reform in a wealthy country struggling to diversify in similar ways to Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.