Kuwait. Democratic developments in Kuwait got a crack in July
when the country's constitutional court refused to raise
four cases that could have led to women being given the
right to vote and to run for political office.
COUNTRYAAH, Ali Husayn al-Khafaji, Colonel "Ala", who led the puppet
regime that Iraq imposed in Kuwait in connection with the
invasion of the country in 1990, returned in January from
Norway, where he had lived in exile. He was immediately
arrested. In May it was announced that the death sentence to
which he was sentenced in his absence in 1993 was upheld.
In July, Kuwait's parliament ratified an agreement with Saudi
Arabia that states how the border runs in the waters off the
coast of the countries.
In May 2005, the government began designing a new
legislative package to give women the right to vote and to
stand for election. At first reading, the package was
adopted by 26 votes against 20 and 3 abstained. President
Jassem al-Kharafi can run for election to government and
municipal councils. However, there will still be some time
before these advances can be exploited by women, as the next
parliamentary elections will take place in 2007 and
municipal elections in 2009.
A constitutional chaos ensued in October 2005 when a
member of parliament called on 76-year-old Sheikh Saad
al-Abdullah al-Sabah to resign from the throne post. The
reason was that the emir itself had been hospitalized. In
advance, he had only rarely appeared in public after a heart
attack in 2001. The head of the National Guard, Sheikh Salem
al-Sabah, called for "supporting the emir's leadership."
Throughout 2005, migrant workers - who make up the
majority of the country's workforce - protested on numerous
occasions against non-payment of their wages, arbitrary
reductions in their wages, poor treatment from the employer
side, poor living conditions and failure to extend residence
and work permits.
In January 2006, emir Jaber al-Sabah died at the age of
80. Saad al-Abdalah al-Sabah was appointed emir, under
highly debated circumstances. Many were of the opinion that
with his 75 years he did not have the right age to take over
the post of head of state. The criticism led him to resign
just a week later, leaving the post to his youngest brother,
Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
During the visit of Iran's foreign minister, Manuchehr
Mottaki, in Kuwait in May 2006, the emir, citing US
criticism of Iran for its nuclear program, declared: "Iran
has been and continues to be the focal point of the region,
and has always known to develop its relations with wisdom".
After trying for several years, Parliament passed a bill
recognizing women's political rights, allowing them to vote
and stand as candidates.
A bill to reduce the number of constituencies from 25 to
10 led to fierce conflict between government and parliament.
The Emir therefore dissolved Parliament on May 21 and
postponed new elections. During the June parliamentary
elections, reform-oriented candidates received 33 of the 55
seats in parliament. This was the first choice for women to
stand. However, no woman was chosen.
In March 2007, Parliament tabled a motion of
no-confidence against the Minister of Health, Sheikh Ahmad
al-Abdulá, for administrative and financial irregularities
in his ministry. To avoid a vote, the entire government
Again in March 2009, the emir dissolved parliament,
leading to the Prime Minister and the rest of the
government's departure. Parliamentary elections were held in
May, and for the first time in the country's history women
were elected. Out of Parliament's 50 seats, 4 were occupied
by women. Since political parties are banned, all nominated
candidates were independent. Over 2/3 of the country's
people do not have Kuwaiti citizenship and were therefore
not eligible to vote.
In April 2010, Kuwait deported 17 Egyptians who allegedly
tried to establish a local branch of Egyptian Mohamed
El'Baradei's National Association for Change.
On May 31, Israeli pirates attacked a relief column in
the Mediterranean on their way to Gaza. The Israeli military
subsequently detained all those on board - including 18
Kuwaiti nationals. The Emir put pressure on Israel to
release the 18 Kuwaiti, and subsequently brought them home
on a Kuwaiti plane after being allowed to cross the