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Politics of Kuwait

The State of Kuwait (Dawlat al Kuwayt) has been ruled by the royal al-Sabah dynasty since ~1752. The 1962 constitution contains detailed provisions on the powers and relationships of the branches of government and on the rights of citizens. Upon the death of an amir, the crown prince assumes his position. A new crown prince is then selected by members of the Sabah family from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great. Under the constitution, the designation is subject to the approval of the National Assembly. Since independence, successions have been orderly, both in 1965 and 1978.

Kuwait experienced an unprecedented era of prosperity under Amir Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah[?], who died in 1977 after ruling for 12 years, and under his successor, Amir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah[?]. The country was transformed into a highly developed welfare state with a free market economy. During the 7-month occupation by Iraq, the Amir, the government, and many Kuwaitis took refuge in Saudi Arabia or other nations. The Amir and the government successfully managed Kuwaiti affairs from Saudi Arabia, London, and elsewhere during the period, relying on substantial Kuwaiti investments available outside Kuwait for funding and war-related expenses. His return after the liberation in February 1991 was relatively smooth.

Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. On May 4, 1999, the Amir once again dissolved the National Assembly. This time, however, it was done through entirely constitutional means, and new elections were held on July 3, 1999.

No political parties exist in Kuwait, although there are several major political groupings that function like parties. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decisionmaking, with powers to initiate legislation, question government ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation.

Country name:
conventional long form: State of Kuwait
conventional short form: Kuwait
local long form: Dawlat al Kuwayt (Arabic: دولة الكويت)
local short form: Al Kuwayt (Arabic: الكويت)

Data code: KU

Government type: nominal constitutional monarchy

Capital: Kuwait (City) (Arabic: ( الكويت ( مدينة )

Administrative divisions: 5 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Ahmadi, Al Farwaniyah, Al 'Asimah, Al Jahra', Hawalli

Independence: 19 June 1961 (from UK)

National holiday: National Day, 25 February (1950)

Constitution: approved and promulgated 11 November 1962

Legal system: civil law system with Islamic law significant in personal matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: adult males who have been naturalized for 30 years or more or have resided in Kuwait since before 1920 and their male descendants at age 21
note: only 10% of all citizens are eligible to vote; in 1996, naturalized citizens who do not meet the pre-1920 qualification but have been naturalized for 30 years were eligible to vote for the first time

Executive branch:
chief of state: Amir JABIR al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah (since 31 December 1977)
head of government: Prime Minister and Crown Prince SAAD al-Abdallah al-Salim Al Sabah (since 8 February 1978); First Deputy Prime Minister SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah (since 17 October 1992); Second Deputy Prime Minister SALIM al-Sabah al-Salim Al Sabah (since 7 October 1996)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister and approved by the monarch
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the monarch

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-Umma (50 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 3 July 1999 (next to be held NA 2003)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats - independents 50; note - all cabinet ministers are also ex officio members of the National Assembly

Judicial branch: High Court of Appeal

Political parties and leaders: none

Political pressure groups and leaders: several political groups act as de facto parties: Bedouins, merchants, Sunni and Shi'a activists, and secular leftists and nationalists

International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, BDEAC, CAEU, CCC, ESCWA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a black trapezoid based on the hoist side

See also : Kuwait



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