Kuwait will conduct its second legislative election in nine months on Tuesday, in an effort to resolve a protracted political crisis that has seen the parliament repeatedly dissolved and reinstated, thereby impeding economic reforms.
Disputes between the appointed government and elected parliament of an OPEC member state have impeded fiscal reform, including the passage of a debt law that would allow Kuwait to access international markets and reduce its heavy reliance on oil.
In September 2022, opposition candidates made gains in elections convened to replace the 2020 legislature that had been dissolved in an effort to end political bickering.
The 2022 election was nullified in March, and the 2020 composition of the legislature was reinstated. This parliament was again suspended for new elections in May.
The political turmoil in Kuwait has prompted another round of voting.
For decades, frequent political impasse in Kuwait, the oldest and most active legislature in the Gulf region, has led to cabinet reshuffles and parliament dissolutions.
Kuwait prohibits political parties and candidates run as independents; however, its legislature has more authority than comparable entities in other Gulf monarchies, including the ability to pass and obstruct laws, question ministers, and submit motions of no confidence.
The number of candidates vying for 50 elected positions has decreased to 207 from 305 in 2022; this is the lowest number of candidates since the 1970s. The emir designates up to fifteen additional National Assembly members.
Courtney Freer of Emory University stated, “There is apathy and disillusionment with the system since gridlock has emerged.”
“In terms of resolving this political impasse, political reform is frequently discussed, but there is little consensus regarding the best type of reform,” said Freer.
Monday, the International Monetary Fund reported that high oil prices were aiding Kuwait’s recovery from the COVID-era strain on its public finances, but that swift passage of the new Public Debt Law was crucial.
“Substantial fiscal consolidation based on both expenditure and non-oil revenue measures will be required,” the report stated, adding that reduced public sector compensation and energy subsidies were necessary to reverse a projected decline into fiscal deficit over the medium term.