Controversy after Kuwait signs GCC pact

The emir of Kuwait (right) 33rd GCC summit. Photo Bahrain News Agency

By Wafa Alsayed, Research Analyst, Middle East

Gulf states have finally managed to sign a major security agreement, after Kuwait came on board last month at the 33rd Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, held in Bahrain. Kuwait resisted the collective security treaty when it was first introduced in 1994, deeming it incompatible with its constitution and unlikely to make it through its parliament. Its decision to swiftly ink the pact in private at December’s GCC summit may have been prompted by recent unrest back home. However it is also further fuelling a mood of insurrection in Kuwait recently.

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Unprecedented protest in Kuwait

Kuwait towers. Photo: Earth Hour Global under a CC licence

By Alanoud Al-Sharekh, Corresponding Senior Fellow for Regional Politics, Middle East

The unrest that erupted in Kuwait on Sunday was the largest and most violent in the oil-rich emirate’s recent history. Thousands of protesters took to the streets after emir Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah announced changes to Kuwait’s voting system on Friday. Less than a fortnight earlier, the emir had paved the way for snap elections in December by dissolving parliament.

The majority of Sunday’s demonstrators came from Kuwait’s Islamist and tribal opposition, who suspect the measures are an attempt to marginalise them in parliament. Special Forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the rally. I watched from my window as crowds attempted to bait the forces by throwing rocks and chanting ‘We will not allow you’ – a reference to one opposition politician’s warning to the emir not to make changes to Kuwaiti legislation. Several demonstrators arrested for participating in an illegal march and for damaging property were released the next day.

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Districts and discord in Kuwaiti politics

Kuwait Parliament

‘Majlis-al-Umma’, Kuwait’s National Assembly building, Kuwait City. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons/Leshonai

By Wafa Alsayed, Research Analyst, IISS-Middle East

Last week’s verdict by Kuwait’s highest court, which left existing electoral districts intact, is the latest stage in an ongoing battle between the Kuwaiti government and opposition forces.

For opposition groups, this verdict is a victory. In 2006, the number of electoral districts was reduced from 25 to five, following popular pressure from youth groups and other members of the opposition.  Elections held since the redrawing of districts indicate that the new system favours opposition forces. The previous 25-district system – implemented by the government in 1981 – was regarded as biased against political reform, and too easy for the ruling Al-Sabah family to manipulate.

Both the 2006 redrawing and the latest court ruling were welcomed by opposition groups, but the verdict is unlikely to mark the end of the struggle over Kuwait’s electoral map. Read the rest of this entry »


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