Towards An Elected Government |
Kuwait Times - 10 July, 2012
Author: Fouad Al-Obaid
As the Arab Spring revolts of the previous year start bearing their fruit in the form of newly established democracies, the impetus for change is growing across the Arab world. It was Tunisia that opened last year’s democratic ball by chasing notorious ex-President Ben Ali out of power. Shortly afterwards, it was followed by massive demonstrations held at Tahrir Square which created confusion for a short period of time, that not only lead to the ousting of ex-Pharaoh Mubarak, but his much publicized trial in a court of law that saw him being sentenced recently -a first for the region.
The fate of the next country to have been hit by the democratic wave and despite many in-fightings, the recent parliamentary election are a tribute to a nation that suffered harshly under the crushing hand of the ex-tyrant that remained for years, a mere colonel. The fate of Ali Saleh of Yemen also lies in legal limbo, the injuries suffered last year as a failed assassination attempt was carried out against him. It is perhaps a mark; a little taste of the suffering inflicted by him to the people of Yemen.
Throughout the Arab world, there is a growing sense of anger. Collectively, people are tired of the status quo, which for years has been sold by autocratic regimes to the West as the only means to control the tumultuous part of the world. The Western media was fed fears that democracy would mean the establishment of Taliban-like states rather than Turkish AKP realities.
The people in this part of the world are more religious than their largely secular Western neighbors. The realities of managing countries in the 21st century amid international law with globalization being the norm will ensure that countries remain ‘moderate,’ despite an initial heightened desire to profess a real -or imagined- Islamic heritage. In no way is the Middle East today a threat, nor do most countries in the region desire to become belligerent. The cost for conflict is too high a burden.
What most desire, and we have seen in the speech of recently elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi that though ‘Islamist’ – whatever the merit of such a word is – are now at the helm of power, the talk of an Islamic State – whatever this would translate into – are subdued to a civil state that guarantees the freedoms of all the citizens in whom the powers lie.
Turkey has recently become the model for many aspiring Islamists. What they see is a country that is asserting its Islamic heritage, and similarly working towards developing its economy and society at par with its Western counterparts. The sick man of Europe is sick no more! The success of the AKP is a source of inspiration that could become a blueprint of what a democratic Islamic region could look like.
At home, here in Kuwait, the merit of the ‘democratic’ system we have built over the past fifty-years has its high’s and low’s. Recently, the gridlock we are faced with is due to a battle of supremacy between an elected parliament, and an appointed government as well as a third covert party: a shadow government that could really pull the strings.
Today Kuwait is not a monarchy, nor is it a constitutional democracy in full; this lack of real democracy is starting to be thoroughly questioned by a growing majority of citizens. The recent decision by the Constitutional Court to nullify and render void the 2012 Parliament has come as a shock, and has exasperated the political arena.
Though legal and binding, the verdict timing has come in the eye rather prematurely. Suspiciously, the court ruled on the matter a few days following the suspension of Parliament for a period of one-month by HH the Amir.
The protagonist – better known locally as the majority in the 2012 parliament. All are in the opposition – are now voicing clear
demands that the center on the amendment of the 1962 constitution. Examples of the proposed amendments would prevent Ministers – who are ex-officio MP’s – from voting in grilling motions. Furthermore, it is highly necessary today to establish an independent electoral commission, and demands are growing for pushing towards a single electoral district, along with legalizing political parties.
Most pressing, the notion of an elected government and the transformation of Kuwait into a constitutional Emirate whereby the head of state would be the Amir, paving the way nevertheless for the appointment of a prime minister that is not from the ruling family. Also, demands for senior cabinet post are an integral demand the ‘sovereign’ ministries – Foreign Affairs, Defense and Interior – that historically were headed by a minister from the Al-Sabah would no longer need to be.
The next months will prove to be crucial for the political future of Kuwait. The probable election that will take place early in the fall will either once and for all, bring to an end the unbearable political bickering that has stopped many crucial development projects from being executed or will lead to even greater chaos.
The outcome of the election, and the way by which the current authorities will choose to interact with the potential parliament, will set the outcome of either a gradual transition into a more mature ‘democracy’ or a descent into even greater political fighting. Though unlike other Arab Spring revolts and uprising, the legal battle raging in Kuwait has so far been a peaceful one with civilized protest, and no political retribution. If the peaceful nature of events were to be fueled by a dangerous escalation, as has been the case in other Arab states, the consequences will be grave.
By Fouad Al-Obaid