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The Need for Cooperation Between Kuwait’s Parliament and Cabinet

The idea of the Kuwaiti constitution started with the vision of Sheikh Abdulla Al-Salem through adopting a mechanism that brings Kuwait together to preserve the sovereignty and independence of the new nation and utilize all the talents and resources in the country to build a nation-state. The constitution’s vision did not differentiate between opposition or government, nor between the Cabinet or Parliament. However, the constitution left government institutions tied to the outcomes of agreements or disagreements in case of majority absence in the government or parliament, which repeatedly prevented the formation of pragmatic solutions.

This obstacle resulted in multiple crises; in many, it produced a deadlock or a cessation of Parliament. Additionally, the ban on forming political parties in Kuwait exacerbated the problem since no concrete political agendas are supported by specific political groups that can capture a majority or create a cabinet to reflect the public will. Also, constitutional limitations force the two pillars of the Kuwaiti government, the Cabinet, and the Parliament, to collaborate if they agree or abandon the issue if in disagreement, which led to the dissolution of one of the two entities.

The founders of Kuwait drafted the Constitution to ensure the law applied equally to all Kuwaitis. However, the recent parliamentary experience, specifically the 2022 government, revealed inefficiencies when several MPs resisted to adhere to the Constitution’s articles and subsequent interpretation. Therefore, the Parliament was dissolved multiple times, setting a precedent in Kuwait’s political history, causing disruption in the Cabinet’s work and political anxiety within Kuwaiti society.

Kuwait and Regional Stability

The stability of the Kuwaiti state is essential for the region and Western partners due to its significant oil and gas reserves, the global reliance on Kuwaiti oil exports, and the impact on energy prices. Further, despite current de-escalation agreements, the region is plagued with potential political unrest and instability, which can quickly escalate and lead to conflict. Therefore, good and stable relationship between the members of parliament and cabinet in Kuwait is also crucial to domestic politics and regional stability. The current regional rapprochement could provide the ideal moment to attract investments to expand the Kuwaiti economy beyond oil revenues. The Saudi-Iranian agreement, brokered by Beijing and accepted by the United States, provides the region with the potential for regional peace to allow many nations to expand their economies beyond oil and gas exports.

Regional de-escalation could allow Iranian economic partnership with Arab states, persuading the Iranian regime to pursue stable economic and politics partnerships in the region. One specific example would be an end of Iranian meddling in domestic politics in Arab countries, which would ensure regional stability and allow an environment for economic development. However, the GCC states should simultaneously resolve their domestic political issues and inefficiencies, whether in Kuwait or elsewhere, as we are witnessing an ambitious and growing young demographic cohort that seeks increased activity and stability in everyday politics.

Towards a New Political Communication

Kuwait’s political solution can be found in moving away from the previous means of communication, particularly polarizing speeches and agendas that destabilized political life and obstructed the legislative and executive branches’ work. Moderation in rhetoric and policies in both branches of government is the first step in resolving political deadlocks between the Parliament and Cabinet, as evidenced by previous parliaments, where both institutions negotiated and resolved issues in harmony.

Additionally, the two most active institutions in Kuwait are the legislative and executive branches, therefore a smooth communication and work relation between members of both institutions is crucial for the country’s stability and economy. Members of Parliament act (MPs) as connectors between the executive branch and the electorate by explaining government positions to constituents or reflecting the people’s will to decision-makers. Recently, both the Parliament and Cabinet have failed to work together to secure stability and ensure practical political work. In the last two governments, in 2021 and 2022, communication between members of both Cabinet and Parliament was strained. Both rejected collaborating on most policy agendas, leading to delays in the country’s economic and development plans. The central issue identified in disagreements between these two institutions is the misunderstanding of democracy as a concept, as presented by the Western world, and what the Kuwaiti Constitution offers.

Members of Kuwaiti institutions must understand that the Kuwaiti Constitution was specific and drafted for Kuwait as a nation-state within a particular set of circumstances related to its societal segments and cohesion, and regional conditions. At the same time, the concept of Western democracy is a notion that is designed for the Western world. These two concepts might only sometimes align perfectly in Kuwait, and when they do not, we face political dilemmas.

Consensus and Improved Communication

The experiences of the last two Kuwaiti Parliaments reveal that the Kuwaiti Constitution sets the limits for the actions of MPs and discourages inflexible or stubborn opposition behavior, as such behavior leads to inaction and political instability. Many MPs need to understand their duties without assuming they have unlimited authority to question the actions of the Cabinet, as this disrupts the overall work of the government. One critical factor in regulating MPs work is the Parliament Speaker, who can moderate more radical positions or rhetoric through consultation with different political blocs and mediating solutions with the Cabinet.

In short, every parliamentary cabinet worldwide is expected to work productively with the parliament to succeed. When they clash, both fail in their mission. Kuwait needs a productive work relationship between the two institutions since there are no political parties to reflect the people’s will, leaving the Parliament as the only regulator of the Cabinet’s work.

The resumption of effective government work in Kuwait will only be possible when the Parliament and Cabinet find common ground to work on pressing issues important for the country’s development. However, since Constitutional reform is not possible now, the only real solution is for both branches to improve their communication methods and strive for a consensus on work priorities. By understanding the unique nature of the Kuwaiti Constitution, fostering improved communication, and moderating political rhetoric, the Parliament and Cabinet can resolve political deadlocks and promote national interests while also responding to a young and ambitious demographic seeking increased political activity and stability.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gulf International Forum.

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His Excellency Ambassador Abdulla Bishara was the first Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council between 1981 and 1993. He also held several positions in Kuwait’s Foreign Ministery: Permanent Representative to the UN, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Brazil and Argentina, and Foreign Service Officer. Currently, he is the president of the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies and a board member of the advisory body of the GCC Supreme Council.

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