Although political tensions have been common in Kuwait, October turned out to be a dramatic month for the country’s politics. On 7 October, the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved the country’s National Assembly for the second time this year – and the third time in less than 12 months. Due to the annulment in June of the February elections by the country’s Constitutional Court, the previous assembly had been reinstated but had failed to convene since. Two weeks after the latest dissolution it was announced that new elections would take place on 1 December, while the electoral law was amended, reducing the number of votes per person from four to one. The amendment enraged opposition leaders, who have announced to boycott the December elections, and led to one of the largest demonstrations ever seen in the country.

Impact on country risk

Political wrangling has been a common feature in Kuwaiti politics, particularly between the government, which is appointed by the emir, and the elected National Assembly, in which opposition figures won a majority during the last elections. The situation has obstructed effective policymaking in Kuwait  for years,  hampering further political and socio- economic developments in the country. However, it seems that the events of last month represent a significant challenge to the political landscape. Not only was the number of participants in the protests unprecedented, but also the criticism voiced by opposition leaders against the emir. Moreover, if the opposition insists not to participate in the December elections, political opposition risks moving from the National Assembly (which has had a tradition of airing political dissatisfaction) to less formal (and possibly more subversive) activities. While such a boycott could also reduce parliamentary opposition to the government, ending Kuwait’s political stalemate in the short run, it would deal a heavy blow at the legitimacy of the National Assembly.

Analyst: The Risk Management Team, s.vanderlinden@credendogroup.com