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World > Middle East > Kuwait > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Kuwait - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family since the middle of the 18th century. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir's choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, the founder of modern Kuwait, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence. In January 2006, the National Assembly played a symbolically important role in the succession process, which was seen as an assertion of parliament's constitutional powers.

For almost 40 years, the Amir appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait's Prime Minister. However, in July 2003, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a different ruling family member as Prime Minister.

Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. In May 1999 and once again in May 2006, the Amir dissolved the National Assembly, but complied with the constitution by holding new elections within 60 days. The most recent general election, held in June 2006, was considered free and fair and was marked by the participation of women for the first time as voters and candidates who introduced social and educational issues to the political debate. In July 2006 the newly elected legislature passed a law to reduce the number of electoral districts from 25 to 5 in a move that reformers hoped would increase the transparency of the democratic process by increasing the number of votes necessary to win a seat in parliament.

The government does not officially recognize political parties; however, de facto political blocs, typically organized along ideological lines, exist and are active in the National Assembly. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question ('grill') cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation. In May 2005, the National Assembly approved legislation granting women full political rights. Subsequently the Prime Minister appointed Kuwait's first female minister, Dr. Masouma Al-Mubarak, as Planning Minister and Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs, and the government appointed two women to Kuwait's Municipal Council. Following the March 2007 resignation of the cabinet, Dr. Masouma was joined by a second woman, Nouriya Subih, in the cabinet.

Principal Government Officials
Amir--His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Crown Prince--His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Prime Minister--His Highness Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah
First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Interior--Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs--Faisal Mohammed Al-Hajji
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister--Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah
National Assembly Speaker--Jassem Al-Khorafi
Ambassador to the United States--Sheikh Salim Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al Sabah
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Ambassador Abdullah Al-Murad

Kuwait maintains an embassy in the United States at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. [1] (202)-966-0702).


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Current Time
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Notes and Commentary
People
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Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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