No quick end for Kuwait impasse

19 March 2012

Parliamentary election results erase any hope of progress for resolving standoff with government

Kuwait’s liberals and Shia minority prickle at the thought of the increased influence of Islamists in parliament. Just weeks after the elections, calls have already been made for the constitution to be amended, making Islamic law the sole source of legislation. 

Kuwaitis rarely hold back when engaged in a discussion regarding national politics. They have more freedom than most states in the region to express political opinions, something they have been demonstrating over the past year. 

But, this year’s elections were marred by incidents of political violence for the first time, a sign that Kuwait is pulling itself in vastly different directions. The political and merchant classes have found their monopoly on politics and economics challenged from several sides. With a majority in parliament, the conservative elements in Kuwait, represented by emboldened tribal and Islamist members of parliament, must now feel their time has come.

None of this bodes well for the economy, which has suffered from near constant political paralysis since the state’s liberation from Iraq in 1991. Over the past five years, Kuwait has been the GCC’s slowest-growing economy, averaging 2.6 per cent a year, compared with 4.2 per cent in the UAE.

Local and international firms hoping to take part in Kuwait’s megaprojects face another period of uncertainty as they look for signs of change in parliament.

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