A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Plus ça change . . .

Why is this man smiling? He's Sheikh Nasir Muhammad al-Ahmad Al Sabah, and his uncle the Amir has just reappointed him as Prime Minister of Kuwait. (That's not why he's smiling, actually: it's a file photo. But I wanted to use the line.)

Now, for an analysis of Kuwait's elections, I've already referred you to Greg Gause's analysis of the vote from Kuwait, but if there is anything that reinforces his headline — "Kuwait's elections don't solve its political crisis" — it should be the fact that the outgoing Prime Minister is the incoming Prime Minister. The fact that the real conflict between government and Parliament is over the right to question (and hold confidence votes on) certain Cabinet ministers who also happen to be named Al Sabah, is unresolved. (The Cabinet need not be drawn from the members of Parliament; they have ex officio votes in Parliament anyway.) The fact that Kuwait elected four women Parliamentarians and the Shi‘ites increased their representation are important, to be sure, but so long as the Prime Minister and several other key ministers come from the Royal Family, the fundamental issue is going to remain.

In three years, there've been three Parliamentary elections. In the past year alone, two. The Prime Minister, however, is the same one who led the outgoing Cabinet. Kuwait has one of the most vigorous and genuinely competitive Parliaments in the Arab world, but there is still a fundamental structural flaw, and it doesn't seem to have been addressed here.

2 comments:

Mark E. said...

great blog.

keep it up. you are doing an excellent service

David Mack said...

The election of four Kuwaiti women PhD holders is significant news that the U.S. media should not disregard. The two of them I know are determined and articulate. They will shake up the Kuwaiti Parliament, for the better.