Kuwait is preparing to vote for its fourth parliament in six years in an election unlikely to resolve a relentless tug-of-war in the Gulf Arab nation that has paralysed politics and held up reform. It is hard to predict who will “win” the vote, particularly since formal political parties are banned, but one thing analysts agree on is that the new parliament is likely to be just as divided and obstreperous, if not more so, than the last. “It doesn’t really matter who wins and who loses,” said political commentator Ghanem al-Najjar. “What’s important is how we move on from there.”
At stake is political stability and economic development in a key oil exporting country and strategic U.S. ally that hosts several American military bases. Kuwait has long prided itself on having a fully elected parliament with legislative power and lively debate — unique in a region ruled by autocrats who tolerate little, if any, dissent.
But without the resources of political parties to tap into, individual MPs must build voting blocs from scratch, while the government has a bloc built into the system because the 16-member cabinet can vote on legislation and inevitably sides with the government.