Speculation Is Rife About the Future of Kuwait’s Parliament

The history of the country’s National Assembly gives grounds for thinking it may recover, though it would once again have to buck trends in the wider region

Speculation Is Rife About the Future of Kuwait’s Parliament
The Kuwaiti parliament during the opening of a new legislative term in 2003. (Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP via Getty Images)

On May 11, the emir of Kuwait, Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, issued an order to dissolve the elected National Assembly and suspend, for up to four years, certain articles of the constitution related to the legislative body’s operation. The decision was a response to escalating political tensions following the passing of former Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah in 2020, which were temporarily relieved but not resolved during the reign of his successor, Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who died in December 2023.

The emir’s decision marks the first such suspension since Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation in 1990, though it is not unprecedented: The National Assembly has been unconstitutionally dissolved twice, in 1976 and 1986.

Kuwait has long been an object of perplexed interest for Arab political observers. The country’s political system, essentially a constitutional monarchy with a combative parliament, is rare in a region filled with autocrats, police states masquerading as secular republics, and other types of dictatorships.

Its intricate parliamentary politicking is unusual, as is the sight of assembly members aggressively questioning members of the royal family in a Gulf sheikhdom where reverence for emirs and princes is an obligatory part of the political etiquette. The complexities of the emirate’s political shenanigans and the rise and fall of governments and elected assemblies can often seem Byzantine and incomprehensible to political observers in the region.

But Kuwait’s experiment with a form of democracy, however flawed, is worth chronicling. The evolution of its political system, spurred along by the traumatic invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, is unique in the region. But it is also worth examining as a cautionary tale that highlights the limits of political maneuvering in a region where a retreat to one-man rule in the name of stability is easy, and where proponents of democracy must fight time and again to preserve their right to challenge those in power.

Over the past two decades, the relationship between the institution of the emirate and the National Assembly has been tense, leading to the latter’s dissolution, both constitutionally and unconstitutionally, numerous times. This tension is partly structural, stemming from the mechanisms that define the relationship of the monarchy and parliament, which distribute powers in a way that perpetuates crises and clashes. For instance, the constitution allows the emir to dissolve the assembly and call for new elections, while the assembly’s members can interpellate ministers, formally questioning them, and issue no-confidence motions. Unconstitutional dissolutions are relatively rare in Kuwait’s history. Unlike constitutional dissolutions, they involve the suspension of constitutional articles and are not usually tied to an election timetable.

In the early phases of Kuwait’s history (1963-1990), the emirate used multiple extraconstitutional tools, such as electoral fraud and unconstitutional dissolutions of parliament, but since 1990 the emirate has managed its relationship with the National Assembly according to constitutional guidelines. Tensions flared, however, when Emir Sabah al-Ahmad assumed power in 2006, mainly because of multiple political and social changes, principal among them being the separation of the post of crown prince from that of prime minister, and the shifting and unpredictable nature of the opposition.

These tensions persisted until his death in 2020. During his rule, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad exhausted all available constitutional and legal tools to manage his relationship with various political forces, while, in turn, all constitutional means were used to challenge him. In 2012, he successfully fragmented and defeated the political blocs in the National Assembly, but this led to a new problem: Parliamentary politics became increasingly individualistic, complicating the emirate’s ability to control the assembly.

Emir Sabah al-Ahmad’s successor, Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad, initiated a political dialogue and proposed settlements to ease tensions, but these efforts were unsuccessful. With Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad’s death in 2023, resorting to unconstitutional measures and deviating from the Jeddah Agreement of 1990 that had restored parliament after its previous unconstitutional dissolution became inevitable. Kuwait’s political system seemed increasingly unable to manage conflict within the confines of the country’s constitution.

The new emir, Meshal al-Ahmad, quickly resorted to unconstitutional measures in his first year in power, dissolving the National Assembly for the first time since 1986, in a move that casts doubt on its future.

Kuwait’s constitutional life began in 1962, during the reign of Emir Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah, who is often called the “Father of the Constitution.” Several factors contributed to this new kind of politics emerging, but the most important was the pivotal role played by a group of reformist figures from the country’s elite, foremost among them Ahmad al-Khatib.

Born in Kuwait, al-Khatib received his initial education there before moving in 1942 to study medicine at the American University of Beirut. There, his pan-Arab political views crystallized, and he joined the Al-Urwa Al-Wuthqa Association, supervised by Syrian thinker Constantin Zureiq. Al-Khatib met influential figures at the association, such as the Palestinians George Habash and Wadie Haddad, the Syrian Hani al-Hindi and the Iraqi Hamid al-Jubouri, all of whom were influenced by Zureiq’s ideas and helped found the Arab Nationalist Movement.

Upon returning to Kuwait, al-Khatib, one of Kuwait’s first doctors, began building a political movement advocating for the country to become a constitutional emirate with an elected assembly. Al-Khatib played a significant role in drafting the constitution, providing recommendations and comments as a member of the constituent assembly.

The first unconstitutional suspension of the assembly in Kuwait occurred in 1976 under Emir Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah and stemmed from a struggle between two powerful sheikhs, Jaber al-Ali al-Sabah and Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, over the position of crown prince. The conflict led to the 1967 assembly elections being rigged. To resolve the dispute as the two powerful sheikhs carried on jockeying for position, Emir Sabah al-Salim suspended the assembly in 1976, officially citing tension between the government and the assembly following the election of 1975.

The dissolution was greeted with popular pressure from newspapers like Al-Watan Daily and Al-Taliah, and various civil society organizations, which issued a joint statement on Sept. 18, 1976, rejecting the government’s actions. Popular pressure continued and took new forms as a strong Shiite movement emerged in Kuwait in the wake of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The National Assembly was ultimately reinstated in 1980, though the emir attempted to limit its influence and shape the electoral system to limit the opposition.

The second unconstitutional dissolution occurred five years later, amid an economic crisis known as the Souq al-Manakh crash. Souq al-Manakh, an unofficial Kuwaiti stock market named after its historical location, emerged in 1979 in response to government restrictions as a parallel to the Kuwait Stock Exchange. Souq al-Manakh flourished, achieving unprecedented trading volumes and even exceeding the London Stock Exchange at one point, but it collapsed in 1982 when stock prices fell. Speculation in phantom companies with no actual assets or business operations contributed to the market’s downfall.

The 1985 assembly, born out of this crisis, leaned toward the opposition. It did not hesitate to use its oversight tools, including interrogation of ministers. One such interrogation led to the resignation of the minister of justice, legal and administrative affairs, Salman al-Duaij al-Sabah, only a month after the assembly’s election. Tensions escalated between the assembly and the government over the economic crisis and its investigation. The assembly was granted supervisory and review authority by the Constitutional Court over the Central Bank’s documents from during the Souq al-Manakh crash. Before the assembly could act, Emir Jaber al-Ahmad unconstitutionally dissolved it on July 3, 1986.

The National Assembly was reinstated as part of the compromise that followed the liberation of Kuwait after Iraq invaded the country on Aug. 2, 1990. During the invasion, the government sought to present Kuwait to the international community as a democratic state in contrast to Iraq’s dictatorial regime, engaging with wide segments of the political opposition and elite.

All parties were invited to attend the Jeddah Conference of Oct. 13-15, 1990. The goal was to provide the ruling family with the political legitimacy needed to gain international support for the liberation of Kuwait. They succeeded in securing this support from the opposition and reformist elites in exchange for their commitment to restoring the constitution and parliamentary life. In the final statement of the conference attendees declared, “After we achieve victory over the aggressor and liberate our land from the Iraqi regime … we will rebuild our beloved Kuwait … on two legitimate foundations.” The statement emphasized the second foundation as “the Kuwaiti people’s adherence to their national unity and to the legitimate system they chose and accepted, which is based on Shura [counsel], democracy, and popular participation under the country’s constitution issued in 1962, which is considered the protective shield and basic guarantee for the safety of society.”

Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah upheld the commitments made at the Jeddah Conference regarding the National Assembly until his death in 2006. This period was perhaps the most politically stable in Kuwait’s history, largely due to the lingering effects and ongoing threat following the Iraqi invasion.

The emirate abandoned the use of unconstitutional methods to resolve disputes with the National Assembly, and the parliamentary system was deepened and expanded. In 2003, when Emir Sabah al-Ahmad was appointed prime minister, the role was separated from that of crown prince for the first time, reducing the direct connection between the line of succession and the government.

During this period, a new generation of reformers emerged, most notably former assembly member Musallam al-Barrak, later known as “the conscience of the nation.” Al-Barrak began his political career in union work, particularly in municipal roles. He served as president of the Labor Syndicate of Municipal and Fire Department Employees, a member of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation and later as assistant secretary of the Arab Trade Union Confederation. Al-Barrak first participated in National Assembly elections in 1992, losing initially but succeeding at all subsequent elections until February 2012. In 1999, al-Barrak and others established the Popular Action Bloc, a parliamentary group that played a significant role in the ensuing years, especially during the political movement known as the “Karamat Watan” (Nation’s Dignity) marches between 2012 and 2014. The movement emerged in response to unpopular changes to electoral districts that aimed to weaken the opposition, but evolved to demand broader constitutional reforms, specifically advocating for ministers to be selected from outside the ruling family.

In addition to the rise of the reform movement, this period saw other developments that expanded and solidified parliamentary life in Kuwait. One of the most significant was the adoption of a law in 2005 granting women the right to participate in elections and run for office. Kuwait’s parliamentary system reached a peak in 2006 when the National Assembly played a crucial role in the accession of then-Prime Minister Sabah al-Ahmad to the position of emir. When Emir Jaber al-Ahmad died in 2006, Saad al-Abdullah became emir while the crown prince position was unfilled. Due to Saad al-Abdullah’s deteriorating health, the assembly invoked Article 3 of the inheritance law, which allows for the removal of the emir for health reasons. As a result, Sabah al-Ahmad assumed the role of emir. The assembly was instrumental in resolving what was known as the governance crisis. Additionally, in response to the “Nabiha 5” (We Want It Five) campaign, the assembly played a significant role in abolishing the 25 electoral district system and replacing it with a five-district system.

The recent unconstitutional dissolution of the National Assembly can be understood as an unintended consequence of the policies implemented by the emirate toward the National Assembly during Emir Sabah al-Ahmad’s reign. Although Emir Sabah al-Ahmad adhered to the Jeddah Conference agreement, the constitutional maneuvers used in the struggle between the emirate and the assembly inadvertently set the stage for deviations from the constitution.

This conflict went through two main phases. The first lasted from 2006 to 2012 as both opposition parliamentary blocs and the emirate increasingly used their constitutional tools to confront one another. Within a period of only six years, the emir constitutionally dissolved the assembly four times, and parliamentary blocs conducted several interpellations, including the historic interrogation of Prime Minister Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah in 2006 over electoral districts, marking the first time a prime minister was interpellated in Kuwait’s history.

Organizing opposition lawmakers into parliamentary blocs allowed the government to adapt within the rules of the parliamentary game. The assembly’s success in ousting several ministers also led the government to employ various strategies to maneuver against interpellations, such as postponing them, holding them in secret sessions and referring them to the Constitutional Court. Sometimes, the government succeeded in gaining support from parliamentary blocs for these strategies or in opposing the interpellations. However, these maneuvers were always complex and not guaranteed, especially considering the different stances of parliamentary blocs within the assembly. For instance, some pro-government blocs refused to refer interpellations to the Constitutional Court or use other government mechanisms to stifle them, even if they opposed the interpellations themselves.

The emirate continued to confront opposition blocs within the National Assembly by gaining the support of loyal parliamentary blocs, such as the National Action Bloc, the Salafi Islamic Gathering and most Shiite deputies. However, this strategy backfired after the events known as the deposits crisis. This crisis began when the assembly member Faisal al-Muslim announced that he had information about money that parliamentarians received from then-Prime Minister Nasser al-Mohammed. Al-Muslim submitted a request to interpellate the prime minister, and some loyal blocs proposed turning the interrogation into a secret session. The surprise came when the loyal National Action Bloc did not vote in favor of this request, resulting in a public interrogation. Following the interrogation, al-Muslim submitted a motion for a vote of confidence against Nasser al-Mohammed, but the National Action Bloc voted against it.

The loyalist blocs continued to waver, however, following the deposits crisis. After al-Muslim’s failed attempt to withdraw confidence from the prime minister, Burgan Bank filed a case against al-Muslim, accusing him of colluding with a bank employee to disclose confidential information related to customer accounts and the deposits crisis. As a result, the Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee in the National Assembly decided to lift al-Muslim’s immunity. However, the government and loyalist representatives deliberately delayed sessions, causing the constitutional period for the automatic cessation of al-Muslim’s immunity to lapse. The National Action Bloc then decided to join the reformist and opposition blocs, including the Popular Action Bloc, the Reform and Development Bloc and some independent representatives, forming a coalition called the Except the Constitution bloc, which opposed changes to the constitution. During a political gathering held by this bloc in the house of opposition assembly member Jamaan al-Harbash, unprecedented skirmishes occurred between attendees and special forces. These events pushed the National Action Bloc to further oppose the government and influenced many independent representatives to do the same.

The emirate’s loss of control over the parliamentary blocs reached its peak when Saleh al-Mulla, a member of the formerly loyalist National Action Bloc, al-Harbash, of the opposition Reform and Development Bloc, and al-Barrak, of the opposition Popular Action Bloc, submitted an interpellation against the prime minister in December 2010. While the government barely managed to prevent a vote of no confidence against the prime minister, thanks to a thin margin of support from a handful of independent representatives, this interrogation opened the door to a series of successive interrogations, including four directed against Nasser al-Mohammed himself. These interrogations were not only initiated by opposition members but also by government-affiliated figures, such as Faisal al-Duwaisan. Additionally, some interrogations arose from conflicts between ministers themselves, such as the one between Nasser al-Mohammed and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development and Housing Ahmed al-Fahad al-Sabah. These interrogations coincided with the Kuwaiti political scene reacting to the Arab Spring. A popular gathering held in al-Erada Square in November 2011 ended with demonstrators entering the National Assembly’s building. This led, several weeks later, to the fulfillment of a major opposition demand: the resignation of Nasser al-Mohammed’s government. However, once this demand was met, the National Assembly was constitutionally dissolved.

The National Assembly elected in February 2012 was distinctly oppositional, with an important difference from previous assemblies: an increase in the number of independent representatives who did not belong to collective blocs. This assembly began with promises of consensus between the new prime minister, Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah, and the National Assembly. Jaber al-Mubarak was the first prime minister from outside the two traditional branches of the ruling family.

However, the composition of the assembly was doomed to fail. On the one hand, the government could not rely on organized parliamentary blocs loyal to it. On the other, it faced a heterogeneous opposition without a clear political or intellectual vision. This resulted in the excessive and uncoordinated use of interrogations by opposition members, and by those affiliated with loyalists as well. In addition to the unrestrained interrogations, the members of this assembly proposed laws that deepened the crisis between the government and the opposition majority. Notable proposals included amending the constitution to only allow laws to be passed that are “in accordance with Islamic law,” passing a law for the execution of those who insult Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, and reducing the powers of the Constitutional Court.

Faced with this difficult situation, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad resorted to a new policy to curb the opposition within and outside the National Assembly, using tools outside the parliamentary context. The first of these tools involved changing the electoral system for the 2013 assembly elections, shifting from five districts where each voter could vote for four candidates (a block vote system), to five districts where each voter could vote for only one candidate (a single nontransferable vote system).

This amendment undermined the ability of political blocs and alliances to form because it forced voters to choose only one candidate, leading to a boycott of the elections by the opposition. As a result of the boycott, the participation rate in the December 2012 elections for what became known as the One Vote Assembly, declined to 40% from nearly 60% in previous votes. The purpose of the new system was to control parliamentary outcomes by inculcating a new relationship between politicians and their constituents. Instead of communicating to a diverse and wide-ranging constituency, the discourse became insular, highly individualized and more tribal and sectarian as representatives appealed to narrower bases. Candidates depended on promises of government services, such as guaranteed employment, ministerial promotions and other benefits to secure votes from these smaller but reliable segments of the electorate.

The authorities also launched a campaign of arrests and revoked citizenship from members of the opposition political movement, which had been organizing the Nation’s Dignity demonstrations and demanding a shift toward a constitutional emirate. Eventually, the emirate formed an alliance with Marzouq Ali Mohammed al-Ghanim, the new speaker of the National Assembly, who played a significant role in controlling the assembly’s behavior. These measures led to the imprisonment and displacement of several political leaders and hindered National Assembly representatives from forming opposition parliamentary blocs. This resulted in the near-total absence of political opposition from the Kuwaiti political scene between 2013 and 2016, and to a lesser extent during the 2016-20 assembly.

Emir Sabah al-Ahmad did not anticipate that dismantling the collective opposition inside and outside the National Assembly would lead to another problem: the increasing rise of independent assembly members. The disappearance of parliamentary and political blocs reduced the government’s ability to maneuver between different groups and control the lawmakers’ excessive use of interpellations. The rise of independent representatives led to a sharp increase in the number of interrogations in the 2013 assembly despite not being an opposition-dominated assembly. Independents could initiate decisions to interpellate, after which groups of representatives for or against the interrogation would form, rather than such decisions emerging from political and parliamentary blocs. This forced the government to negotiate with individuals, as opposed to organized blocs, in a painstaking and uncertain process that weakened its ability to slow down the slew of interrogations.

Independent representatives’ excessive use of the interpellation tool increased political instability in Kuwait. Between 2012 and 2020, the number of interpellations submitted by National Assembly representatives was more than three times higher than during the period from 2006 to 2012. This sharp increase in interpellations was matched by the emirate’s increased reliance on constitutional dissolutions. Besides dissolving the assembly, the emirate institution began negotiating with lawmakers individually, using government services to gain their loyalty. These services included offering leadership positions in ministry agencies and facilitating medical treatment abroad. This approach deepened significantly in the 2013 assembly, which became mockingly known as the “Delegates’ Assembly,” suggesting that members had become more focused on meeting the voters’ petty service needs than representing them politically and addressing governmental and legislative issues. While this system culminated during Emir Sabah al-Ahmad’s reign, it led to the emirate’s departure from the Jeddah Agreement after the emir’s death.

Before Emir Sabah al-Ahmad died in 2020, Prime Minister Jaber al-Mubarak resigned because of a corruption case known as the Malaysian Funds case, a money laundering scheme using Chinese currency equivalent to $2.3 million, which was taken from stolen funds and investments of the Malaysian Sovereign Fund. The case involved a member of the ruling family and his partners, including two expatriates, though Jaber al-Mubarak was later acquitted of any involvement. Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah was then appointed prime minister and later became crown prince. Emir Sabah al-Ahmad’s death on Sept. 29 coincided with the only National Assembly to complete its full legislative term during his reign, ushering in a brief political respite. His successor, Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad, called for parliamentary elections during the normal constitutional period and reappointed Sabah al-Khalid as prime minister, the second person after Jaber al-Mubarak from outside the two main branches of the ruling family to serve as prime minister.

The election results favored the opposition, which promptly held a meeting and set their priorities. The most important was the agreement of 37 opposition lawmakers to prevent al-Ghanim, the speaker of the two previous assemblies, from becoming speaker again. Instead, they supported another candidate, forming a majority bloc. The bloc viewed al-Ghanim as a key figure opposing reformist voices and as responsible for policies of exile, displacement and exclusion in the previous period. During the voting session, the government, with all its members, supported al-Ghanim, leading to his election as speaker of the assembly. The inability to guarantee a unified position in the elections stemmed from the fragmentation of organized political blocs, increasing individualism in parliamentary work, and the lack of a unifying intellectual or political character within the majority bloc.

The crisis between the majority representatives and the government erupted early, resulting in several interpellations, including at least five directed at Sabah al-Khalid. In response, the assembly and the government approved a measure (that was also voted on in the assembly) aimed at limiting the number of interrogations directed at the prime minister. This measure, surrounded by some constitutional ambiguity and controversy, required the postponement of scheduled interpellations before they were even set in the agenda, thus avoiding the expected ouster of Sabah al-Khalid. The majority bloc protested this and the suspension of the amnesty file, a measure meant to grant amnesty to Kuwaitis sentenced for political opinions or positions, leading to 38 representatives signing a statement called the “Statement of the Nation” on Oct. 19, 2021. In this statement, the members invited the emir to help resolve the ongoing issues and emphasized the importance of granting the aforementioned amnesty, given the tense circumstances in the region.

Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad acknowledged the speech and called for a national dialogue involving representatives from both the opposition and the executive authority. This dialogue led to the pardoning of some politicians and the return of exiled figures, including al-Barrak, al-Muslim, al-Harbash and Mubarak al-Walaan. However, disagreements within the so-called Majority Bloc quickly emerged, centering on the lack of communication with lawmakers who did not sign the statement, the nature of the concessions made by signatory assembly members to obtain the pardon, and the authorization given to the speaker of the National Assembly, al-Ghanim, to handle the amnesty file.

These disagreements eventually led to the dissolution of the National Assembly. In a fiery statement, Bader al-Dahoum, a majority bloc representative (whose membership was revoked in March 2021 by a Constitutional Court ruling for insulting the emir) accused the signatory assembly members of isolating those who did not sign the statement and of authorizing an “outcast from the people” (al-Ghanim) to monopolize the amnesty issue. Tensions grew between assembly members supporting the “Statement of the Nation” and those opposed. These resulted in numerous clashes, including ongoing demands from some lawmakers to oust the speaker of the assembly, and disputes over the legislative agenda. Due to the limitations of parliamentary tools, and the lack of any constitutional pathways to impeach or remove the speaker of the assembly, some members resorted to disrupting sessions and interpellating ministers.

This ongoing conflict prompted some representatives to stage a sit-in at the assembly building, starting on June 15, 2022. The declared reason for the sit-in was to disrupt regular sessions for over two months and to reject the government-imposed pension grant law. The decision to dissolve the assembly aimed to end this period of crisis. In a speech reflecting sentiments expressed by the opposition since 2012, the emir emphasized correcting the course. He began with reassuring words, stating, “We will not deviate from the constitution, nor will we amend, revise, suspend, or harm it, as it is the source of legitimacy of the government and the guarantee of its survival and the close covenant between us and you.” He affirmed the nation’s right to decide its affairs, saying, “Out of necessity and respect for the people’s will, we have decided to resort to the constitution and the covenant that we have accepted … to dissolve the National Assembly constitutionally. … Our goal in this constitutional solution is the sincere desire for the people to stand up and speak out.” He also made historic commitments, promising the government’s neutrality on all National Assembly positions, from the speakership to parliamentary committees.

The elections following the parliamentary sit-in yielded exceptional results. Members affiliated with the opposition and the anti-Marzouq al-Ghanim movement won the parliamentary majority, and al-Ghanim did not participate. The government abstained from voting on any matters related to the assembly’s leadership, offices and committees, fostering optimism about the sincerity and outcomes of the emir’s speech. However, this cooperation was short-lived. The government was absent from the Jan. 10, 2023, session due to the assembly’s imposition of the loan purchase law. This law aimed to buy some citizens’ personal loans and write off the interest, a measure that the government viewed as yet another strain on an economy overburdened by transfer payments. In conjunction with this crisis, the Constitutional Court annulled the assembly for procedural reasons, reinstating al-Ghanim as its head by constitutional mandate. New elections were called for June 6, 2023, as if the prior dissolution had not occurred.

The 2023 assembly nearly marked a new beginning for a cooperative relationship between the National Assembly and the institution of the emirate, potentially ending previous conflicts. But in December 2023, Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad passed away, and Crown Prince Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah was named emir. Upon assuming the emirate, Emir Meshal al-Ahmad delivered a sharply critical speech, stating, “We did not see any change or correction of the course. Rather, the matter went further when the legislative and executive authorities cooperated to harm the interests of the country and the people. What happened in terms of appointments and transfers in some cases resulted in jobs and positions that do not meet the most basic standards of justice and fairness. Additionally, the handling of the amnesty file and the race to approve the rehabilitation file clearly show the extent of harm to the country’s interests.”

This speech led to the resignation of the government and the appointment of a new government headed by Mohammad al-Salem al-Sabah. However, as soon as the new government began its work, conflicts between the National Assembly and the government resumed due to clashes between individual initiatives and a lack of coordination among assembly members. After the new government was sworn in, it requested a month to consider the issue of exceptional salaries to ministers and leading members of the executive bureaucracy. The majority bloc split, with 16 representatives supporting the government’s request and the others rejecting it. This was followed by assembly member Abdulkarim al-Kanderi delivering a speech defending the assembly against the emir’s criticism, which the emir viewed as an insult to his position and an interference in his powers. The assembly, by majority, rejected the government’s request to delete al-Kanderi’s speech, and on Feb. 15, 2024, Emir Meshal al-Ahmad announced its constitutional dissolution and called for new elections.

Most members of the previous parliament were reelected on April 4, 2024. However, this assembly lasted only five weeks before it was unconstitutionally dissolved and some articles of the constitution were suspended. After winning the elections, the majority demanded that the election results be respected and reflected in the formation of the government, and that problematic ministers be excluded. The emir decided to invoke Article 50 of the constitution, which allows for the suspension of the assembly’s work for up to a month, due to the sudden withdrawal of Mohammad Sabah al-Sabah from the prime ministerial candidacy and the lack of an alternative. Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah was then chosen as prime minister. News spread about the new government’s formation, including the appointment of Fahad Yusuf al-Sabah as minister of interior.

Fahad Yusuf’s actions as interior minister in the previous government had made him a contentious figure, and 30 deputies denounced him in their campaigns, making his appointment a hot topic and a potential flashpoint. Several representatives expressed their dissatisfaction with the news of Fahad Yusuf’s appointment and the idea of appointing Nasser al-Mohammed to be the crown prince. To voice their objections, representatives Abdulhadi Alajmi and Anwar al-Fikr called for a press conference on May 6, demanding Fahad Yusuf’s exclusion as a minister. Just four days later, Emir Meshal al-Ahmad issued an order to unconstitutionally dissolve the assembly and suspend some articles of the constitution, the first decision of its kind since the Jeddah Conference.

The emir’s decree recommended Sabah al-Khalid as crown prince, bypassing the assembly’s oversight and avoiding the political maneuvers of competing sheikhs. This mirrors the first suspension case, where the assembly was also suspended after a sheikh managed to secure a compromise majority in choosing a crown prince. The suspension acted as a reaction to this conflict. While the crown prince conflict is a significant factor in these suspensions, other issues, such as the ease of using interrogation and the absence of parliamentary blocs, also contributed to instability and the members’ involvement in the conflict, factors that have repeatedly influenced the history of the Kuwaiti parliament.

Since the National Assembly was dissolved several weeks ago, speculation has been growing over the consequences of this decision and the possibility of the return of Kuwaiti parliamentary life. Some believe that the chances of the National Assembly returning are slim because of the absence of a strong external influence, like the Iraqi invasion, which previously reshaped motivations and incentives. Others are more optimistic about its return. Predicting the future is difficult, but if previous experiences are any indicator, the current situation resembles the first suspension more than the second. The first suspension occurred amid a struggle between family leaders over the crown prince, and it ended once the crown prince issue was resolved and popular pressure led to the return of parliamentary life. This resolution came with the inauguration of Sabah al-Khalid as crown prince. However, despite these similarities, there are important differences that suggest a more pessimistic outlook for the future of parliamentary life in Kuwait. The most significant is the closing up of political space and the collapse of democratic movements across the Arab world.

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