Kuwait can be identified as having a partially democratic authoritarian government where the parliament is democratically elected and the executive branch is the Al Sabah monarchy.
|The Kuwaiti flag|
The Executive Branch
It includes the Amir (president), the Crown Prince (vice president), the Prime Minister and the cabinet of ministers.
The Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah -Picture obtained from www.kuwaitmission.com
All rulers must be from the Al Sabah family. However, the constitution clearly states that they should be direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, one of the early rulers of Kuwait.
The Amir's powers include appointing the prime minister, dissolving parliament, promulgating and initiating laws referring bills back to the parliament for consideration, proclaiming martial law, declaring war and appointing military officers.
The constitution clearly states that the "Amir's person is immune and inviolable." This means that he is above all in the country and criticism of him is unacceptable 6.
On January 15, 2006, one of the most beloved Kuwaiti rulers, Sheikh Jaber Al Sabah died from health problems. Today Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah, Jaber's brother, is the Amir.
The Legislative Branch
Here is where it gets a little bit complicated.
The National Assembly is the legislative authority in Kuwait. It is comprised of 50 democratically elected members, the Prime Minister and the cabinet of about 15 ministers. Although not stated in the constitution, the Prime Minister and ministers of critical ministries—defense, foreign affairs and power—are always members of the ruling family 2.
The complicated part is the fact that members of the appointed executive branch also participate in legislation. It is said that including the government in the legislation process decreases the power of the parliament and ensures the survival of the monarchy.
Kuwait is one of the true democracies in the region, in that parliament members are truly allowed to exercise their powers. Their powers include: initiate legislation, represent public concerns, express views without being reprimanded, question government and impeach cabinet ministries—over the years several ministers were impeached and were forced to resign.
According to the constitution a member of parliament should be:
- A Kuwaiti by origin in accordance with law-- citizens who have been naturalized for at least 30 years.
- Qualified as an elector in accordance with the electoral law.
- At least 30 years old at the time of the election.
- Able to read and write Arabic well 6.
The constitution prohibits political parties, meaning that all candidates run as independents. But unofficially, many candidates represent certain ideologies: Islamists (Sunni or Shiite), liberals, tribal and government supporters. Again, the prohibition of political parties lessens the power of the assembly, and ensures the ruling family's reign 1,2.
Elections are held every four years. Only natural born Kuwaitis are allowed to vote. People who serve in the armed forces, members of the ruling family and Kuwaitis who have been naturalized for less than 30 years are banned from voting. Previously, only men could vote, but the parliament recently granted women the right to vote.
Overall, Kuwaitis are happy with the rulers and their government because the country is trying its best to serve its people. Education is free and the government grants many excelling students scholarships to study abroad. For information about Kuwaitis in America click here. Health care is also free, and if local hospitals cannot cure a patient, that patient is flown to get treatment abroad.