Evaluating Kuwaiti Democracy

I’ve been busy covering Kuwaiti parliament election in the past 6 days. For the first time in Kuwaiti history 4 women was elected, which is amazing to everyone here, no one expected this breakthrough for Kuwaiti women in such short time, a lot of people now consider Kuwaiti democracy to be a role model in this part of the world, and it does have a significant advantages among other Arab countries, freedom of expression is on an acceptable level here, but still, Kuwaiti democracy has a long way to go.
The first problem in my opinion is in the way people choose their candidates, most of the people select their candidates regardless to their qualifications, but strictly because they share the same family name, clan, or sub-religion, not on the bases of political agenda, furthermore, a lot of candidates managed to stay in parliament because they “buy” their chairs there, by paying money for voters, and eventually, government learned to play by these rules, and now, there are a lot of accusations of political money both from government or other influential figures outside of it, to the candidates for their election campaigns, and from the candidates to the voters to buy their voices.

Speaking about voices, there’ve been a lot of debate about the role of directed media in defining the results of the elections, it’s not a secret here that many parliament members have their own TV channels or newspapers, so the freedom of expression here does not necessarily mean objective media, on the contrary, the balance in the media comes only from the bias of both sides, you see channel A for this side of the story, then you watch channel B for the other side, being sure that each will tell only one side, and that’s not what media should look like, not to mention the media wars that spark every now and then between political “parties”.

So what you have inside the parliament is a collection of people who represent different groups, it’s just like the united nations, where every country has it’s seat, they represent groups of people, not ideas, so you can imagine the difficult time parliament members spend trying to “accept” each other.

In the same time, government is also chosen based on blood relations, not qualification, and they also have great difficulty accepting criticism from parliament members, the whole story becomes like MP from this clan is questioning a Minister from that clan, and it’s not the issue who’s wrong here, the only issue is “How dare you?!” . MP constantly tried to question the PM, but the ruling family refuses to let him face this interrogation because they deem it insulting for one of them to be questioned by one of the people, the parliament was dismissed 3 times, and all the nation had to vote 3 times, and to choose candidates 3 times only so can one man from the ruling family can stay in his post without being held responsible, without having to answer questions, because it’s considered to be insulting!!

Because Kuwaiti government does not accept criticism, no matter how much members of the parliament say or shout at them, the democratic system does not look like it’s getting Kuwait any advancements, MP cannot force the government to change its policies, and the government eventually wins, simple because it has the power not the right to win.

Parliament is incapable of ruling the country, and democracy therefore is incapable of adjusting itself for more democracy, the system looks more than “half-democracy” or “shallow democracy” than real democracy, and this is giving people the wrong impression about democracy, they don’t know what democracy means, they never had any other kind of democracy before, and now they have this, and everyone is saying “that’s democracy”, so there is now a minor trend among Kuwaitis that democracy is bad ! it’s not helping, it’s causing a lot of troubles, problems, conflicts, and no advancement at all, so why would we want it?

The other dark side of democracy is it’s inability to insure dignity for foreigners and stateless people in Kuwait, they don’t have rights, there are a lot of rules that cause them damage like sponsorship system, housing problems, health care system, salaries, and even respect from Kuwaiti nationals, but they don’t have any way to change anything, the parliament is ignoring them due to its everlasting battle with government, and Kuwaiti people frankly don’t care about them, unlike all other democracies where human is respected and cherished, regardless to his citizenship or nationality, ask any Indian in Kuwait about the way Kuwaiti people treat them and you will understand what I mean.

The conclusion is it’s only a surface democracy that we have here, and there still need to be a lot of mind changing before we get to the point where people will understand the real meaning of democracy and learn how to use it to advance themselves to the future, because what we have now is only half-implemented-procedural democracy, just something to brag about, like a cancer-HIV ailing person in expensive shiny outfit. IMHO.


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