Kuwaitis go to the polls again in bid to shift political crisis
KUWAIT — Kuwait on Tuesday holds its second legislative election in nine months in a bid to resolve a grinding political crisis that has seen parliament repeatedly dissolved and reinstated, hindering economic reforms.
Feuding between the OPEC member state’s appointed government and elected parliament has hampered fiscal reform, including passing a debt law that allows Kuwait to tap international markets and address a heavy reliance on oil.
Kuwait’s last election was in September 2022, when opposition candidates made gains and which was called to replace the 2020 parliament which had been dissolved in a bid to end political bickering.
The 2022 vote was nullified in March and parliament was reinstated under its 2020 composition. In May, that parliament was itself again dissolved for fresh elections.
Frequent political deadlock in Kuwait, the Gulf region’s oldest and most lively legislature, has for decades led to cabinet reshuffles and parliament dissolutions.
Kuwait bans political parties and candidates run as independents, but its legislature has more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies, including the power to pass and block laws, question ministers and submit no-confidence motions.
The number of candidates contesting 50 elected seats has dropped to 207, from the 305 that stood in 2022; the lowest number of candidates since the seventies. The emir appoints up to 15 other National Assembly members.
“There is a sense of apathy and I think disillusionment with the system since gridlock has emerged,” said Courtney Freer of Emory University.
“In terms of moving past this political impasse, political reform is often discussed, but there is little agreement about what type of reform would be best” Freer said.
The International Monetary Fund on Monday said high oil prices were helping Kuwait recover from a COVID-era strain on public finances, but passing the new Public Debt Law soon was paramount.
“Substantial fiscal consolidation based on both expenditure and non-oil revenue measures will be needed,” it said, adding that lower public sector wages and energy subsidies were needed to reverse a projected decline into fiscal deficit over the medium term.