Friday, June 30, 2006

Kuwaiti Election Results

The fact women voted in Kuwait's Parliamentary elections yesterday is good, but mainly a catch-up thing. The only Arab countries where women don't have voting rights are arch-conservative Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where no one does. The elections are still important, however, because Kuwait is arguable the most Democratic Arab country aside from Iraq, and certainly the one coming to put the most emphasis on the "constitutional" part of the idea of "constitutional monarchy." Last January, when Emir Sa'ad was forces out due to illness, the decision may have been largely uncontroversial, but it's still significant that it was done through Parliament.

In any case, the Financial Times reports results:
"Reformist candidates, the majority of them Islamists, have made significant gains in Kuwait's parliament in election results likely to reverberate around the Gulf's Arab nations...

"Political parties are not legalised in Kuwait, making it difficult to determine the precise make-up of the new parliament - the only one among the Gulf's Arab nations with robust powers over legislation.

"But ideological groupings are tolerated, and analysts said as many as 36 of the 50 contested seats - there are 65 seats in total because 15 members of the cabinet, dominated by the ruling family also vote in parliament - were now controlled by candidates who campaigned publicly for electoral reform, up from 29 in the outgoing parliament.

"This represents a big setback for the new emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who dissolved parliament in May when opposition members confronted the government over plans to dilute electoral reforms.

"It means the government is potentially in a minority on key issues. It may be impossible in the short term, for example, for it to push through plans to raise oil production from 2.5m to 4m barrels a day by allowing foreign companies to operate in ageing northern oil fields."

The next big question is how the Emir will respond. If he tries to thwart these results too brazenly, the world may see a second Orange Revolution.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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