Kuwait’s Constitutional Court: Political or Not?

Let’s start with this point and go back to it later: What does it take to run for parliamentary elections in Kuwait? Well, just be someone “who knows how to read and write” according to Kuwait’s constitution.
This Wednesday, Kuwait’s constitutional court stormed us by ruling out the legality of the Amir’s decree to dissolve the previous parliament in response to a case filed by candidates Safaa Al-Hashim and Rowdan Al-Rowdan. The court’s decision stated that the decree was unconstitutional in procedures and thus the call for the February elections was as well unconstitutional. The court legally took down the current parliament, which is manipulated by the conservative popular bloc and its Islamist allies, and installed back the very problematic 2009 parliament. The latter is widely accused of having several parliament members bribed by the former Prime Minister Nasser Al-Mohammed to vote him in every time he was facing grilling sessions.
Recently, the criminal court acquitted 5 police men accused by MP Obaid Al-Wasmi of brutality and insults. Al-Wasmi, who was then an activist and a professor in law, was beaten by those police men for being in an illegal gathering, insulting policemen, and disobeying the orders given by the Amir himself to disperse the gathering. This verdict does sound political as it legitimizes brutality against citizens if permitted by higher authorities and more importantly it depended on “oral orders” by the Amir to disperse a gathering.
Few days ago, the Amir chose to practice his constitutional right to suspend the parliament for a month considering the way the parliament has been having intense clashes such as countless grilling requests, sectarian fueling arguments, and many absentees among MPs that got several sessions cancelled. Today, Kuwaiti politicians are left lost in the face of the constitutional court.
Very naively, many members of parliament took the easy path to question the integrity of the constitutional court when the responsibility is partially theirs. I started this piece referring to the intellectual level that MPs are required to have; literacy! The point is that the parliamentary majority has got itself and the nation in this situation by not being religious about the constitutional procedures. Many were discussing whether the dissolving procedures were constitutional before it became official and the parliamentary majority blindly silenced any discussion by stating it is constitutional for reasons that have nothing to do with the precise procedures of the decree.
Those politicians are in clear need to start dealing with the Kuwaiti constitution as their major reference. They have attempted to revolt against the constitution with a request to Islamize laws, a request that the Amir rejected, using his legal power to stop any attempt to change the constitution. Those exact MPs are the ones that have ignored the few voices that called for a constitutional monarchy with a fully elected cabinet; they are the same ones that do not have serious proposals to reform the constitution and the judiciary, if they have real objections to the latter.
The ruling in itself is rightful, precise, and even revolutionary. The ruling challenges the higher authorities and imposes the necessity to follow the constitutional procedures. However, in a general context, the ruling can be seen political considering the latest suspension of the parliament. The ruling, however, leaves it back to the authorities to re-dissolve the previous parliament lawfully and thus get to elections within two months, as regulations state.
The “opposition” as they were called last year, or the “majority” as they are called today, were too eager to get into elections after ousting Nasser Al-Mohammed and thus catch the majority of seats. They were accusing whoever discusses the dissolving decision of being pro Al-Mohammed; someone “bribed.” On the other side, authorities might have, very smartly, worked with their councilors on having a back-up plan to call off the current parliament but how can this make sense when the Amir is expected to re-dissolve the previous parliament, to avoid going back to the same old clashes?
If authorities have any intentions that influenced the court then that would come in relation to having new elections that can take down the government’s major enemies out of the parliament. So far, 21 members of the illegally dissolved parliament have resigned in rejection of taking part of that “bribed” parliament, as several of them stated. Though being a newly established small group, the leftist movement “Tayar Taqadomi” had a bold statement regarding the court’s ruling. The leftist found the illegal procedures done intentionally and “warned” authorities of not respecting the public choice. The leftist took a shortcut and stated what can be read as ‘constitutional or not, the public chose the last parliament and thus it should stay.’ The problem though, the current parliament does not seem to be having any chance of surviving legally.
So is the court acting political? This can only be fully read in relevance to the steps that will be taken by authorities in the coming days. If authorities re-dissolve and call for elections, then we need to observe what games the government would like to play next, if any.

6 comments: (+add yours?)

Anonymous said...

Is the old PM coming back as well?

Mona said...

no no definitely not

Anonymous said...

Kuwait will struggle to progress until a solution to political stagnation is found - just look at the airport and cmpare it to others in the region. A clear sign of how much work is needed.

Monira Al Qadiri said...

We must admit the timing of the decision is very strange. Isn't there a stature of limitations / time-limit on these kinds of rulings? Shouldn't they be filed & investigated before elections or at least immediately after? Where in the civilized world does an "old" parliament become reinstated? There are far too many question marks here. The ruling can only be interpreted as being political.

Anonymous said...

للكويت أغني, أغنية الأمجاد

Farah said...

In response to Anonymous (9:17pm) above, I agree with you that all this political deadlock has stagnated Kuwait's development as the rest of the region seems to be superseding us. But right now I think it is important for us to go through this political process, as painful as it is and is going to be for an indefinite period of time, because it is only through these contentious cycles that our democracy will ever mature. It is currently a malfunctioning democracy, yes, but one that is still lightyears ahead of the rest of the region even if they have the better airports. I really think we need to fix this first, before we fix our airport (and personally, I loved our old airport before they butchered it but that's for a different discussion!). But I understand your sentiment; it is frustrating to see places like Dubai and Qatar developing at such a fast rate when it was Kuwait that once led this process. And you're right...there is a hell of a lot of work to be done.

Keep up the great work Mona. You're making us proud.

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