CONCEPTS AND THEORIES OF COMPARATIVE POLITICAL SCIENCE6
CONCEPTSAND THEORIES OF COMPARATIVE POLITICAL SCIENCE
1.Political Regime and Key Institutions in Kuwait
Thepaper will focus on the political history of Kuwait and the majorestablishments in the country. Analysis of the primary argument willbe discussed based on the historical background of the country’spolitical process.
Kuwaitis one of the Arab countries in the Middle East with the longestparticipation in contemporary political affairs. According to FreedomHouse, the country is partially free. The Kuwait system of governancehas always been based on cooperation, consultation, and widespreadconsensus. During the 17th century, a particular group of Arab tribesrelocated to the present geographical location of Kuwait, thusestablishing the country. The tribes originated from the Arabpeninsula. The constitution was promulgated in the year 1961 when thecountry attained the independence state. The law was enacted byAbdullah as-Salim al-Sabah the third in the month of November 1961.The system of governance describes Kuwait as a democratic governmentwhich is an Arab state, and its origin of power lies with thenations. (Sharmaake & Pekka, 2013).
Theleader of the country is called Emir who has supreme power. He isunelected and can make decisions without consulting parliament. Theruling family which has the overall authority and influence isthreatened by the constitution which has made civil liberties thatgive the people of Kuwait more freedom. Therefore, their power isthus limited by the liberalised law. Despite this limitations, theruling family still has the overall power, and the key governmentpositions are occupied by members of the family (Sharmaake &Pekka, 2013).
Kuwaithas made significant strides in its democratic process. The freedomsenjoyed in their constitution makes the country to be the mostliberal among the Arab nations around it. Citizens of Kuwait havefreedoms such as freedom of expression, opinion, assembly, and press.The right to welfare and education are some of the gains attributedto the liberalisation of the country. The government is divided intothree separate powers by the constitution which include thejudiciary, executive, and legislature. The executive is headed by theEmir who has the authority to make decisions without consultation. Heis also the commander in chief of the army. The legislature iscomprised of 50 representatives who are elected from the fivedistricts (Sharmaake & Pekka, 2013).
Althoughthe country has the most advanced democracy in the in the GCCnations, power still resides on a few individuals who can makedecisions without consulting the parliament of elected officials.Thus, the most significant aspect of democracy is overlooked. Thisshows that the constitution is quasi-liberal. A revolution isnecessary to abolish the institution of a central power anddistribute the power to the people. The adverse effects of a singleauthority with excessive powers are demonstrated by the rashdecisions that have been made in the recent past. In the year 1976 –1981, 1986 – 1992, the parliament was dissolved by the Emir. TheEmir has dissolved parliament five times since 2006.
Thecountry has struggled over the years to obtain more civil libertiesfrom the ruling family. This has led to a political standstill whichmay cause instability in Kuwait. Political reforms are ongoing tochange the political environment, but the ruling family will not giveup power without a fight.
2.Political culture and welfare system
Thepolitical culture of a country refers to the values, beliefs, andnorms that guide the relationship between citizens. Also, the culturedetermines the relationship between the government and its citizens.The government provides help to families who are needy throughwelfare programs that provide basic needs to individuals who theirfinancial state is way below the lowest acceptable level in Kuwait.This paper will focus on the relationship that exists between thepolitical culture and the benefits the citizens of Kuwait enjoy.
Kuwaitis composed of two major tribes, the Sunni and Shite whose religioninclinations are Islamists and secular. Therefore, the governmentconsists of both Islamists and secular political ideologies. Thecountry is ruled by one family which has the supreme power. Due tothe tremendous power in one central place with a few individuals, thecitizens of Kuwait have been fighting for devolution of authority fora long time. But the ruling family has remained adamant to heed toits subject`s beliefs and desires thereby pushing the country intoturmoil. Anyone seen to oppose the Amir is imprisoned, and theircitizenship is revoked. Many people who have openly aired their viewsin social media have met the same fate (Kenneth, 2016).
Dueto the consistent political turmoil, the country’s economy hassuffered setbacks. Kuwait is one of the major producers of oil in theworld which forms a pact with its Gulf neighbours. The politicalviolence has reduced its economic influence in the region. Thecountry was invaded by the Iraq, and the US-led coalition led to itsfreedom. Since then, the US has been present in the country,installing a military base which projects the US power in the Gulf.Therefore, Kuwait is viewed as a pro-western state which has affectedits relationship with countries such as Iran which is the most vocalIslamic country with direct opposition to the USA. The government hasover the year provided petrol at a lower price to both its citizensand foreigners. The cost of water and electricity is low, and on topof that, citizens get support in form of food and housing. People’sincomes are not taxed (Kenneth, 2016).
Thecitizens want a more politically tolerant country which has led toperiodic violence between 2006 and 2013. The primary goal of theopposition to the Al-Sabar rule has always been to give parliamentmore power to run the country.
Thegovernment`s spending on the welfare of its citizens will lead toinstability in future with experts predicting a budget deficit in thenear future. The eventual collapse of the government may furtherworsen the already fluid political atmosphere. There is a directrelationship between the government spending and political evolution.Unlike other Arab states such as Egypt where people rose against thegovernment and overthrew their leader, Morsi. Kuwait has experienceda slow political change largely due to the generous benefits thegovernment gives to its citizens. Thereby prevention a full blownrevolution to oust the ruling family despite the Arab uprising.
Thecountry social welfare system is unstable, and there is a likelihoodof its collapse in the near future if the government does not cutexpenditure. On the other hand, reducing the benefits given to itscitizens may result in a new wave of political violence sincecitizens of Kuwait may be angered by the decision.
3.Political and Social Trust
Thetrust that people give to their government is of significance becauseit shows that the citizens of a particular country have a strongbelief in the government institutions. Social trust can be defined asthe level of integrity and honesty of people. The paper will focus onthe relationship that exists between social and political trust inthe Kuwait.
Accordingto a study conducted in 2008 of the level of social trust incountries located in the Middle East, Kuwait recorded the lowestlevel of social trust among the nations that participated in thesurvey. The countries Included Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon.Many welfare organisations are in operation in many Arab countries.The charitable organisations are categorized according to religiousfaith. Kuwait is positioned at number fifty-seven out of one hundredand forty-two on the number of people making donations to thesecharitable organisations and the difficulty in participating infamily and religious networks (Bertelsmann, 2014).
Mostcitizens of Kuwait have a low political trust due to continuingconflicts between the ruling elite and parliament. Although thecountry has embraced a form of the democratic process whereindividuals are elected to office to represent the views of theordinary man, the elected officials do not have real power to directthe affairs of the country. Therefore, some of the politicaldecisions may not factor the desires of citizens. This is evidencedby the low number of people utilizing their democratic right ofvoting for their preferred candidate. During the Arab spring, thegrowing public unrest and opposition to an authoritarian system ofgovernment experienced in the Arab world reached Kuwait. A largenumber of Kuwait’s population is composed of young people who arelearned. Cases of corruption and a partially democratic process thatis frequently interfered with by the ruling elite has resulted inpublic unrest and support of the abolition of the authoritarian rule(Bertelsmann, 2014).
Kuwaitdoes not have active political parties despite the constitutionmaking it legal. In 2005, the “Umma Party “which was created bypolitical activists received a major blow to its operations becauseits members were prosecuted with bogus charges. The government isafraid of these political parties because they may provide a way forexternal influence.
Thetrust between the government and people of Kuwait is very low due tothe interference of the democratic process by the government. Theconflicts between Parliament and Emir has resulted into thedissolution of parliament on several occasions and boycott ofelections by the opposition. Citizens are tired of this politicaltheatrics which are not beneficial to them. Since the country iscomposed of Islamic and secular aspects of leadership, there is areligious division whereby Islamists do not trust their secularcountrymen (Bertelsmann, 2014).
Kuwaithas the best political inclusion among the Arab states where thecivil society operates without much interference from the government.Organisations such as trade unions, Islamic groups, professionalassociations, journalists, and lawyers can freely participate in thepolitical process
Acountry with a low public and social trust may bring instability andconsequently, political violence may emerge. A fully democraticprocess is the only solution to establishment of trust.
4.Electoral system and key patterns of turnout and voter behaviour
Electionsare a major part of the democratic process because it enables thewhole country to take part in the political decisions of the country.The elected officials represent the different districts in Kuwait. Aneffective democracy is one where the voter participation in theelections is high, ensuring the voice of a majority of the citizensis heard.
Peopleof Kuwait have lost faith in their electoral system which isevidenced by the increasingly lower number of registered voterturnout during elections. In 2012, less than forty percent of theregistered voters participated in the general elections which werethe lowest percentage ever witnessed in history. The country used towitness about eighty percentage voter turnout because many of thecitizens had strong beliefs in the electoral body (Ansolabehere,2014).
Thecentral dispute in Kuwait is between the parliament and thelegislature which had resulted in the dissolution of the assemblyfive times in a span of six years. According to the constitution, theEmir has to order new elections after every dissolution ofParliament. The frequent elections held have resulted in the lack ofconfidence in the electoral system. Also, the citizens have becometired of continually voting in new leaders every time the Emir feelslike dissolving the legislature. The majority of the registeredvoters are the young people who do not support the current regimes.They have taken to the streets to call for immediate politicalreforms in the country.
Corruptionallegations have rocked the country in the recent past with the primeminister resigning four times. It is estimated that one-fifth of theelected members of the legislature were involved in corruption cases(UNDP, 2013). A financial audit showed the large sums of moneydeposited in the accounts of the lawmakers which did not correspondwith their incomes (Bertelsmann, 2014).
Thelow voter turnout is as a result of the many elections held over thepast twenty years and the consistent misunderstandings between thegovernment and parliament. Although some people may view the lack ofexercising democratic rights as a protest against democracy, the mainreason for people of Kuwait turning up in small numbers to vote istheir opposition to the executive branch of the government that isheaded by the Emir. In the recent past, corruption allegations havebeen levelled against parliament which has contributed to the loss ofconfidence in the legislature. Therefore, many people have decided torelinquish their democratic rites of voting because of the assumptionthat the elected officials represent their needs rather than theneeds of individuals who chose them.
Electoralreforms are required to regain the confidence the Kuwait citizens hadon the power of their vote. The voting pattern is dependent of thetribal affiliations of individuals.
5.Party system and Dimensions of Party Competition
Thispaper will focus on the political parties in Kuwait and theirsignificance in the democratic process in the country. The paper willidentify the problem faced by this parties as they conduct theiractivities.
Theconstitution allows for the formation of political parties. InKuwait, there are a few political parties in operation. This isbecause the executive is headed by the Emir provides a hostilepolitical atmosphere for the free and fair political participation.In the year 2005, the government apprehended some political activistswho formed the Umma party. Allegations were made against them thatdid not merit a prison sentence. To prevent possible interferencefrom outside powers in the local politics the government has made ithard for the political parties to be successful (Mohammad Torki Bani& Mohammad Kanoush, 2012).
Afully operational political party would require a 100% participationof its members to the political ideals of that particular party.Therefore, the members are not able to maintain their politicalattitudes. Despite the low number of political parties, there arealliances, movements, and political groups. The groups named aboveperform part of the functions of fully-fledged political partieswhich include participation in pre-elections, operating openly inparliament and advertising their activities to the public. The groupsare categorized into Muslim and Secular social groups. The Shi’iteand Salafi form the Muslim Brotherhood while the other group iscomposed of the leftists (Mohammad Torki Bani & Mohammad Kanoush,2012).
Thelack of enough influence of political parties has made it difficultto exercise democratic rights. The government has limited the freeoperation of political parties. Therefore, power still resides in theruling family which makes policy decisions without much oppositionfrom the political parties.
Electivepositions are won by individuals who have influential politicalparties. A strong party ensures that a candidate will have a higherchance to win an elective position. In Kuwait, parties do not have aninfluence compared to other democratic countries in the world.
Multi-levelgovernance was derived from the research of integration in Europe. Itfocuses on the relationships between the international and domesticauthority structures. The paper will concentrate on the relationshipbetween the governments of the Gulf States and internationalcooperation.
Sincetime immemorial, the leaderships in the Gulf region has beendominated by Monarchies. These monarchies have been governed by thedescendants of one particular family. The al-Sabah family as ruledthe Gulf States for a very long time and it is not until the Arabuprising that majority of its citizens voiced their concerns in largenumbers. The Arab countries have experienced both economic andpolitical changes due to the presence of oil. Kuwait has experienceda high rate of economic development under the leadership of themonarch, but also, it has resulted into regional and domesticpolitical turmoil. Thus, the country has been rocked by consistedpolitical violence leading to a reduced economic growth. (Elsevier,2013).
Kuwaithas been affected by the Gulf wars which occurred between 1980 and1988, 1990 and 1991 and in 2003. In 1979, the violence due to therevolution in Iran reached Kuwait and caused a lot of instability tothe country. In 1963, the National Assembly was established throughthe election of members’ of parliament making it the oldest amongthe Arab nations in the Gulf region (Shafeeq, 2014).
Thereis cooperation among the governments of the Arab Gulf states which ismajorly attributed to the presence of oil in those countries.Therefore, economic decisions are made in consultation to otherleadership authorities in the other countries. Kuwait has been anally of US since its liberation from Iraq invasion. The country hasmilitary cooperation with the USA which shows the extent of theintergovernmental cooperation that is at the regional andinternational level (Shafeeq, 2014).
Thesystem of governance in Kuwait allows for external authorities toform part of the authority structure. The GCC countries form aneconomic pact while the bilateral relationship with the USA forms amilitary agreement.
Ansolabehere, S., 2014. Macro-Economic Voting: Local Information and. Economics & Politics, 26(3), pp. 380-411.
Bertelsmann, S., 2014. Kuwait Country Report, s.l.: Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Elsevier, 2013. Energy Policie s of Gulf Cooperat ion Cou ncil (GCC) count ries —pos sibilities and limitations of ecological modernizat ion in ren tier states, s.l.: s.n.
Kenneth, K., 2016. Kuwait: Governance, Security and U.S Policy, s.l.: Congressional Research Service.
Mohammad Torki Bani, S. & Mohammad Kanoush, A.-S., 2012. Kuwait`s Democratic Experiment: Roots,Reality, Characteristics, Challenges,and the Prospects for the Future. Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (in Asia) , 5(3), pp. 50-57.
Shafeeq, G., 2014. Kuwait: At the Crossroads of Change or Political Stagnation, s.l.: Middle Easten Institute.
Sharmaake, S. & Pekka, H., 2013. Kuwait`s political crisis deepens, Brussels: European Union.
UNDP, 2013. Human Development Report 2013, s.l.: s.n.