Democracy in Kuwait

Muna Al-Fuzai

By Muna Al-Fuzai

More than 50 years have passed since the beginning of parliamentary life in Kuwait. In this period, citizens have lived the experience of democracy, which may be short compared to Western countries, but it has been rich, with both felicitous and unsuccessful practices. But, last week’s incident led some of us to rethink what we have learned from this experience as a whole, its defects and means of reform in order to preserve our democracy.

Unfortunately, the National Assembly witnessed fighting and chaos, and everyone has been shocked by the low level of dialogue and curses. I know that many parliaments in the world may have animosity among deputies, but we are a small country and events such as these are never acceptable.

After this unfortunate incident, some people and dailies started to speak up openly about the importance of evaluating our democratic experience and the need to reconsider a new democratic mechanism. I believe that the defect is not in what some claim is the one-vote system. Or that changing the number of votes or number of districts will fix the situation.

The problem goes deeper than that. The most prominent example was the rejection by some people to establish an independent citizenship commission that Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanem called for, which is a national demand to clear the society of fraudulent citizenship and preserve national identity.

The solution now lies with a proportional representation system or proportional list of candidates in each of the constituencies. The list system combines individual and group work with electoral programs and consists of people who are able to define specific platforms of action plans. Also, this will stop sectarianism and enhance the democratic experience in Kuwait.

MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain has submitted a proposal to amend the electoral system by adopting proportional lists. The proposal stipulates: “Kuwait is divided into five electoral constituencies; each constituency will elect 10 members, and nomination will be based on lists. The number of candidates in any of them in general or supplementary elections may not exceed the number of members to be elected.”

The amendments aim to ensure the success of the largest number of candidates agreeing on a unified electoral program that serves different segments and groups of society, with each candidate in the list reaching the largest possible number of the total voters to obtain the largest number of votes. I think the problem lies in the parliamentary system that makes an individual think that passing laws should proceed according to their personal ideas or that of their close circle or group, and that passing laws can be by their sole desire and not the nation they represent.

The current electoral system still depends on individuals facilitating wasta and services and gaining loyalties in order to satisfy the voter, to the point that offering reform electoral programs has become impossible. Therefore, it is time to develop an engine of modern democracy that adopts the list system, which is a universally-known system whose effectiveness is proven.

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