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Kuwaiti Democracy in Action

Kuwait has just held its eleventh parliamentary election since independence in 1961. Though Kuwait is a monarchy, its parliamentary history has not been placid, and the election campaign reflected ongoing tensions between the royal family and segments of the electorate.

Originally scheduled for October 2007, the election was brought forward to break a deadlock between the parliament and the government over the number of electoral districts in the country. Currently, there are 25 constituencies nationwide, but reformers have long argued that a smaller number – each with a larger number of voters – would be less susceptible to manipulation by the political elite.

The 29 members of parliament who support a reduced number of constituencies were unable to agree with the government on a new number. As a result, the issue became the focus of a vigorous campaign by discontented Kuwaitis, who gathered in front of the National Assembly building and in universities to voice their criticisms.

In response, the government removed the redistricting issue from parliament to the constitutional court – an attempt, reformers argued, to hold back change. When three members of parliament sought to question the Prime Minister – their right, under the Kuwaiti constitution – the parliament was dissolved and elections called.