Parliamentary unrest, a weary public, a shameful verbal exchange and sensible intervention from the Emir; this is simple description of the political scene in Kuwait today.
The political situation in Kuwait suffers from a basic deficiency that threatens the country’s unity. This is what the Emir of Kuwait said in a speech he delivered to the nation, in which he also announced the dissolution of the current parliament and that there would be new parliamentary elections.
Can the situation in Kuwait be put down to rivalry between different political currents? The issue is much more complicated than that. Kuwaiti citizens have been afflicted by anxiety, anger and confusion on a number of levels. It is safe to say that the repercussions of the Iraqi invasion are still apparent in the Kuwaiti political, economic and social structures.
Kuwait, which has always been the best example of positive political interaction, freedom of the press, artistic, cultural and literary brilliance as well as economic and investment creativity, has taken a step back in all these spheres. Political interaction has turned into commotion and the once prestigious parliament has become more like the parliaments of Taiwan and Italy. The former openness of the media is now only a tool to settle accounts and exploit various positions. The quality of Kuwaiti arts has deteriorated in a frightening way and Kuwait’s pioneering economy has fallen in the favour of the increasingly powerful Gulf tigers. Moreover, the investment performance of the region’s first sovereign wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority, has declined radically following a series of financial scandals that were revealed a while ago.
There has been a strong “reaction” in Kuwait to the anti-democratic current. In Kuwait, tribal affiliations, denominations and sects are much more powerful than loyalty to the homeland. In Kuwait, social heritage is far more important than the constitution, and extremism and radicalism are far more important than human values, systems and laws.
Until now, Kuwait has not been able to solve its problems with the Bedouins, which presents a very sensitive issue. In addition, it has not been able to guarantee balanced and equal participation for women in politics. Kuwait is traditionally known to be a moderate country however there seems to be austerity in religious discourse recently, as if the Kuwaitis were discovering religion for the first time.
Kuwait is a relatively small country in terms of population. Nevertheless, you would be amazed at the amount of partisanship, fanaticism and dispute that exists in the country. From football teams, whether you support Qadsia or Arabi, to being Sunni or Shia. Even within the same Sunni sect, there are the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. In Kuwait’s social fabric, there are Arabs, non-Arabs, Bedouins and so on.
Kuwait is facing a tremendous challenge; namely shifting from the concept of tribalism to the concept of citizenship, which guarantees equal rights in the eyes of the law. Something important must be done within the ruling family itself; it must take a united stand and not contribute to the division of the masses. Along with the constitution, it is the ruling family that can bring the country back together and settle any disputes.
If Kuwait does not make a decisive decision through the ballot box, determine the kind of democracy that it wants and accept the conditions of practicing such democracy then the forthcoming problems would be far more dangerous and far more difficult than the Iraqi invasion. This is simply because any future problems would be self-inflicted and that will be painful.