A Test for Democracy: Kuwait's National Assembly Elections Amidst Potential Dissolution

A Test for Democracy: Kuwait's National Assembly Elections Amidst Potential Dissolution
Photo by Abdul Basith via Unsplash


Bilge Ece Zeyrek

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

On June 6, 2023, Kuwait held its seventh legislative election in just over a decade after political crises undermined the parliament and hindered reforms. In the election, more than 793,000 voters determined the composition of the 50-seat legislature from a pool of 207 candidates. [1] Opposition lawmakers have achieved a majority in Kuwait's National Assembly. [2]

Kuwait follows a constitutional and hereditary emirate system, which is a form of monarchy with the ruler known as the Emir. The Emir, who comes from the Al-Sabah family that has ruled since the mid-18th century, appoints the prime minister. Kuwait's constitution was established upon gaining independence from Britain in 1962, creating a framework that includes an executive branch led by the Al-Sabah family, a judiciary, and an elected parliament. [3]

The National Assembly serves as the legislative branch of Kuwait, with 50 elected Members of Parliament. While the National Assembly holds significant influence in Kuwaiti politics, its authority remains subordinate to the Emir, who has the power to dissolve the assembly under valid circumstances. On April 17, 2023, Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah had dissolved the 2020 National Assembly, leading to the recent elections on June 6, 2023. [4]

According to the official Kuwait News Agency, in the recent National Assembly election opposition lawmakers secured 29 out of the 50 seats in the legislature, with only one woman, opposition candidate Jenan Boushehri, being elected. [5] However, there are concerns regarding the country's near future due to ongoing conflicts among various branches of the government, resulting in hindered economic reform efforts. Moreover, the continued presence of budget deficits and limited foreign investment has amplified the prevailing sense of pessimism. The history of frequent dissolutions of the National Assembly further adds to uncertainties surrounding the long-term stability of the newly elected Assembly.

Sources and further readings:

[1] Aljazeera, ‘Kuwait votes in parliamentary polls in hopes of ending deadlock’ (6 June 2023) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/6/6/kuwait-votes-in-parliamentary-polls-in-hopes-of-ending-deadlock/ > accessed 7 June 2023. 

[2] Alarabiya News, ‘Kuwait votes in opposition-led parliament, one woman elected’ (7 June 2023) <https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2023/06/07/Kuwait-votes-in-opposition-led-parliament-one-woman-elected> accessed 7 June 2023.

[3] Wikiwand, ‘Kuwait’ (n.d.) <https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Kuwait> accessed 7 June 2023.

[4] Aljazeera, ‘Kuwait crown prince announces new elections’ (17 April 2023) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/17/kuwait-crown-prince-announces-new-elections> accessed 7 June 2023.

[5] Alarabiya News (n 2).