Friday, June 22, 2012

Schrodinger's Parliament

Egypt is understandably getting the lion's share of attention, but Kuwaiti politics were also thrown into chaos earlier this week when the nation's high court ruled that the emir's November 2011 dissolution of Parliament was unconstitutional due to procedural technicalities, and so the current Parliament was not legitimately elected and the previous one needed to be restored.  The old Parliament was dissolved amidst a corruption scandal that brought tens of thousands of Kuwaitis into the streets.  Its replacement, elected in February, is dominated by Islamist MPs who have pursued a surprisingly theocratic agenda while also repeatedly grilling members of the emir-appointed Cabinet.

Yesterday the government set up a commission to oversee the process of reconvening the 2009 body, redissolving it, and calling new elections.  The emir would reportedly like to name a date for new elections in late July, meaning the new body would not sit until sometime in the fall.  The response to the court's actions, however, could prove more than the government bargained for:
"Opposition groups have been pressing for a full parliamentary system with an elected government to break the ruling Al-Sabah family's monopoly in key posts, in addition to legalising political parties...
"About 30 MPs from the previous parliament, mostly opposition members, have said they will not join the reinstated house and submitted their resignations...
"The opposition Islamist Ommah Party, which is not recognised in Kuwait, called in a statement for a new constitution accepting the rotation of power and an elected government.
"The Progressive Movement called for 'political and constitutional reforms to transform Kuwait into a full parliamentary system' and urged the Al-Sabah family to end its monopoly on the premiership and key ministries.
"The Umbrella for Kuwait Action, a civil society group, called for Kuwait to become a constitutional monarchy as the only way to overcome the ongoing political crisis."
One can contrast the reaction of Kuwait's out-of-power opposition with that in Egypt, where the secularists actually welcomed the SCAF's dissolution of Parliament as giving them another chance to compete and preventing the Muslim Brotherhood from governing.  It seems that the opposition to Kuwait's ruling family is intent on breaking the royal family's lock on executive power, seeking a system in which the prime minister and Cabinet are chosen from the winners of the Parliamentary election rather than appointed from above.  It will be interesting to see if mass mobilizations follow, and if the Sabah dynasty opts for something like the Moroccan model to defuse public opinion.



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