Fanack Home / Kuwait / Past to Present / The 2012 elections

The 2012 elections

Sheikh Sabah IV Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Photo by Ra’ed Qutena
©Hollandse Hoogte

The results of the February 2012 elections reflected popular anger against corruption and the political stalemate between the government and the National Assembly. Despite the opposition’s victory, it was not granted positions in the new government and no women were appointed as minister. However, opposition MPs continued their struggle. In the four short months of the Assembly’s existence, MPs filed as many as eight interpellations against ministers, two of whom resigned.

In June 2012, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah suspended the National Assembly for a month, to avoid the row from further escalating between the government and Parliament, that was about to publicly grill the interior minister, a member of Sabah ruling family. Soon afterwards, the Constitutional Court ruled that the decrees that the Emir had issued to dissolve Parliament and invite Kuwaitis to vote in legislative elections in December 2011, were illegal. Consequently, the results of the elections were scrapped and the previous Parliament (elected in 2009) reinstated. The government resigned in the wake of the court’s ruling. Although unprecedented, the development is typical of the state of turmoil that continues to paralyse Kuwaiti politics.

In response to the ruling, Islamist and tribal opposition MPs who had achieved a major victory in the elections, immediately resigned in protest. Opposition activists held demonstrations in front of the National Assembly to protest against the court ruling and to call for comprehensive constitutional reforms and a full parliamentary government. The opposition has been pushing for the dissolution of the reinstated pro-government Parliament as former MPs have been targeted for corruption. It furthermore accused the Constitutional Court of exceeding its mandate and being involved in politics. Youth movements, that have been active since 2006, demand an elected government, legalisation for political parties and a single constituency, and are pushing the majority opposition bloc to endorse these demands.


Contributing to the political unrest is the division within the royal family between the al-Jaber branch and the al-Salem branch, after the current Emir safeguarded al-Jaber succession in 2006. This division conflict is being played out through public institutions such as the National Assembly. Some analysts believe that members of the al-Salem branch support obstructionist MPs.

An important factor limiting the opposition’s powers is the lack of a legal framework for political parties. MPs hardly get the chance to organize and focus on the longer term. Kuwaiti politics is highly characterized by divides between Shias and Sunnis, between the traditional settled Kuwaitis and Kuwaitis of Bedouin dissent – Hadhar vs. Badu – and between the old and the younger generation, which has recently become politically active. This has created an atmosphere in which various factions are battling over their own interests instead of the state’s development at large. Due to the Parliament’s excessive questioning of ministers, including the Prime Minister, the political discourse is dominated by rows among MPs and with ministers, instead of constructive discussions. This has resulted in stagnation of the much-needed development of the country, notably the government’s development plan to diversify the oil-based economy and make Kuwait the transport hub of the Gulf. Moreover, most MPs push for (short-term) populist measures, including higher citizen benefits. While these short-term measures are intended to satisfy Kuwaiti voters, the stagnation of Kuwaiti politics is risky for the al-Sabah regime, as seen in recent demonstrations and the unprecedented victory of the opposition. While the power of Kuwaiti lawmakers is far greater than their counterparts in the rest of the Gulf, the stagnation has left many Kuwaiti citizens frustrated.

Further Reading

Since the 18th century, Kuwait has been ruled by Al Sabah family. The threat of Ottoman invasion in 1899 prompted Amir M...
In January 2006, Sheikh Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber was pledged allegiance as an Emir for the country, succeeding Sheikh Saad Al-A...
The opposition, having lost its position in the National Assembly, has since been staging regular protests demanding the...

© Copyright Notice
Click on link to view the associated photo/image:
©Hollandse Hoogte

We would like to ask you something …

Fanack is an independent media organisation, not funded by any state or any interest group, that distributes in the Middle East and the wider world unbiased analysis and background information, based on facts, about the Middle East and North Africa.

The website grew rapidly in breadth and depth and today forms a rich and valuable source of information on 21 countries, from Morocco to Oman and from Iran to Yemen, both in Arabic and English. We currently reach six million readers annually and growing fast.

In order to guarantee the impartiality of information on the Chronicle, articles are published without by-lines. This also allows correspondents to write more freely about sensitive or controversial issues in their country. All articles are fact-checked before publication to ensure that content is accurate, current and unbiased.

To run such a website is very expensive. With a small donation, you can make a huge impact. And it only takes a minute. Thank you.