Kuwait is slated to hold its latest parliamentary elections on June 6, 2023—the most recent development in an ongoing constitutional crisis that has shaken the country and exposed deep rifts between the executive and legislative branches. The newest elections could offer the country a way to defuse the crisis, or could simply extend Kuwait’s political impasse and the legislature’s inability to govern for another term.
The current political crisis dates back to 2020, when the newly elected parliament clashed with the executive branch, through parliamentary questioning and media attacks. The parliament’s inability to resolve disagreements led the Emir to dissolve it in 2022. The following year, Kuwaitis elected a new parliament, giving the opposition an even greater share of seats. However, in a surprising turn, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court declared the original parliament dissolution invalid, throwing out the newly elected legislature and restoring the 2020 lawmakers to their seats. Within a month of the court’s decision, the crown prince again dissolved the 2020 parliament and called for new elections, prompting further unrest.
Who is poised to win these elections? What issues are likely to decide the outcomes? What factions within the National Assembly—reformists, Islamists, or tribal groups—are likely to play a decisive role in forming the next government? What role will female candidates play? And how might Kuwait’s latest elections affect the country’s long-running, seemingly intractable political crisis?
Featured speakers: Sinem Cengiz, Dr. Mohammad Alrumaihi, Dr. Courtney Freer, and Dr. Daniel Tavana.
Research Assistant, Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University; Non-Resident Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Sinem Cengiz is a Research Assistant at Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University and Non-Resident Fellow at Gulf International Forum. She is a Turkish researcher with a focus on Gulf affairs, and Turkey’s relations with the broader Middle East. She is a regular columnist for Arab News and the author of the book “Turkish-Saudi relations: Cooperation and Competition in the Middle East.” Sinem is born and raised in Kuwait and currently based in Doha.
Dr. Mohammad Alrumaihi
Professor of Sociology, Kuwait University
Dr. Mohammad Alrumaihi is Member of the Board of Directors at Gulf International Forum and professor of Sociology at Kuwait University. Previously he was an advisor to the Kuwaiti Cabinet, and served as the General Secretary of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) in Kuwait between 1998 and 2011. Dr. Alrumaihi is the founder and editor in chief for daily and monthly publications, and an advisor on various committees on education, journalism, culture and politics for the Kuwaiti government and private institutions in the Gulf region. Dr. Alrumaihi is a member of the board of Diplomatic Institute in Kuwait Foreign Affairs Ministry, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, and Babtain Cultural Foundation. He has written extensively on political sociology and social change in the Gulf region, and cultural changes of Arab world. He has published more than twenty five books. Dr. Alrumaihi served as the Editor in Chief of Awan, a daily Kuwaiti newspaper. Before that Editor in chief of AlArabi Magazine.
Previously, Dr. Alrumaihi served as a member of the Advisory Board for the Council of Ministers headed by Kuwait Prime Minister, member of a number of working commissions on education and higher education in the Kuwaiti government, member of the Gulf Studies Center Advisory Board at the American University of Kuwait and member of the Austrian College in Kuwait, as well serving in prize and publication committees of KFAS.
Dr. Courtney Freer
Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum
Dr. Courtney Freer is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Emory University and a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at Gulf International Forum. Previously, Dr. Freer was Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre. From 2015-2020, Courtney was a Research Officer for the Kuwait Programme at the LSE Middle East Centre. Her work focuses on the domestic politics of the Gulf states, particularly the roles played by Islamism and tribalism. Her book Rentier Islamism: The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gulf Monarchies, based on her DPhil thesis at the University of Oxford and published by Oxford University Press in 2018, examines the socio-political role played by the Muslim Brotherhood groups in Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. She previously worked at the Brookings Doha Center and the US–Saudi Arabian Business Council. Courtney holds a BA from Princeton University in Near Eastern Studies and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the George Washington University.
Dr. Daniel L. Tavana
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at Penn State
Dr. Daniel L. Tavana is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Penn State. Dr. Tavana’s research interests include a focus on elections, identity, and comparative political behavior, as well as the dynamics of political opposition in authoritarian regimes. He studies these issues in the Middle East and North Africa, where he uses a variety of methods and sources of data to study electoral politics. His research is motivated by a broader interest in understanding the origins of contemporary patterns of mass politics across the region. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University in September 2021.