After independence, Kuwait was given a
constitution and a parliament. At the same time, the oil
industry grew rapidly. Oil revenues provided Kuwaiti
citizens with work and a comprehensive welfare system.
Relations with neighbor Iraq have often been
problematic; In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq but was
released the following year by a US-led force with UN
support. In domestic politics, Kuwait has been
characterized by confrontations in the parliament
between loyalist and opposition groups, which has led
governments to resign constantly and announce new
elections. In 2005, women were given the right to vote
and stand for election.
In June 1961, Kuwait became independent from the
United Kingdom, despite protests from Iraqis who claimed
that the area historically belonged to Iraq. The
following month, Kuwait joined the Arab League and in
December the same year an assembly was elected, which
drafted a constitution. In accordance with this, a
national assembly was elected in January 1963. That same
year Kuwait became a member of the UN and the country
was then also recognized by Iraq.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Kuwait. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
During the 1960s, the oil industry expanded rapidly,
and income was used to build up a comprehensive welfare
system and a public sector that provided citizens with
work. One tenth of the wealth was allocated annually to
the Fund for future generations to ensure continued
well-being for the Kuwaitis even after the oil has run
After ten years of relative stability in relation to
Iraq, Kuwait was forced in the early 1970s to make major
donations to the neighboring country to secure its
territorial security. Kuwait also financially supported
the Palestinian cause after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war
and with military involvement in the war against Israel
in 1973. Kuwait was a member of the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) in 1981. During the war between Iran and
Iraq from 1980 to 1988, Kuwait was a major financier of
Iraq's warfare, which led to the country being subjected
to repeated attacks by Iranians.
In July 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accused
Kuwait of exceeding production quotas set by the OPEC
oil exporting countries and of "stealing" oil from Iraqi
sources in a disputed border area. This took Iraq as a
pretext for stationing troops at the border with Kuwait.
Since international mediation attempts had failed,
Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The Emirate, the
government, tens of thousands of Kuwaiti citizens and
foreign guest workers fled to Saudi Arabia and the Iraqi
government declared that Kuwait was formally
incorporated into Iraq.
The annexation was unanimously condemned by the UN,
which demanded unconditional withdrawal and imposed
sanctions on Iraq. With a UN resolution in the back, the
United States and its allies entered Kuwait with
aircraft and ground troops in early 1991 (Operation
Desert Storm). After Kuwait was liberated and the United
States declared a ceasefire in February of that year,
Iraq agreed to renounce its claims on Kuwait. Before
that, however, the retiring Iraqi army had destroyed
more than 700 Kuwaiti oil facilities.
After the liberation, the emir introduced a state of
emergency, which was revoked only after four months.
These months were marked by uncontrolled revenge actions
against "traitors" and by protests from opposition
groups that demanded free elections, legalization of
political parties, freedom of the press and women's
suffrage. Following widespread international criticism,
the government began to intervene in the second half of
1991 against the persecution, as well as against abuses
against Palestinians and other foreigners who did not
distance themselves from the occupation.
Turbulence in Parliament
In 1992, parliamentary elections were held, in which
regime-critical candidates, mainly Islamists, gained a
majority. Parliament launched investigations into
corruption and wastage of state resources, as well as
negligence that would have been committed in connection
with Iraq's invasion. In the 1996 parliamentary
elections, government-friendly candidates won a majority
of seats. In 1999, sharp contradictions arose between
loyalist and opposition MPs, including the government's
proposal to allow foreign oil companies in Kuwait. The
Emir dissolved the National Assembly that year,
announcing new elections, leading to opposition Islamist
and liberal groups gaining a majority in Parliament.
Several of the emir's reform proposals, such as the
introduction of women's suffrage, were rejected by
Around the turn of the millennium, the Kuwaiti
Parliament, the National Assembly, was marked by strong
rifts between loyalist members and opposition forces,
especially Islamists and liberals, who succeeded in
stopping several of the government's reform proposals.
When elections were held for the National Assembly in
2003, government-friendly candidates got the most seats.
During the first years of the 2000s, Kuwait was
increasingly affected by the troubled situation in
neighboring Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The presence of US
troops in Kuwait angered many fundamentalist Muslims and
several attacks against Americans were carried out by
people suspected of being members of the al-Qaeda
In early 2005, a series of clashes took place between
Kuwaiti security forces and suspected al-Qaeda members.
Several of these were killed while the others were
arrested and sentenced to death or long prison
sentences; the death sentences were later converted to
life imprisonment. According to the defense, the accused
after torture had admitted involvement in terrorism. In
the summer of 2009, another six Islamists were arrested
for being linked to al Qaeda and for planning to attack
a US military base as well as the Kuwaiti security
Female suffrage is introduced
After years of debate, in 2005, Kuwait introduced
women's suffrage and in a general election to a local
assembly in April of the following year, women were able
to both vote and run for the first time. Teacher Masuma
al-Mubarak was appointed in June the same year as the
country's first female minister, responsible for
planning and administrative development.
In early 2006, the emir, Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah,
passed away after being the ruler of the country since
1977. He was succeeded by his cousin, Crown Prince Saad
al-Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah, who was prime minister in
1977- in 2003. After pressure, however, Saad abdicated,
after only a week. New emir instead became the prime
minister, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah.
In May 2006, Emir Sabah announced that parliamentary
elections would be held in June of that year and
Parliament dissolved. The election was scheduled for
2007 but is believed to have been premeditated due to a
dispute over a new electoral law that would reduce the
number of constituencies. According to the opposition in
Parliament, the law would reduce the possibility of
voting and other irregularities. The electoral reform
could not be carried out before the election, which was
considered to be beneficial to the government.
The parliamentary elections became the first in
Kuwait with female participation. 28 of the 249
candidates were women, as were 57 percent of those
eligible to vote. However, no woman entered parliament,
and several female candidates stated that they had been
subjected to harassment during the electoral movement.
Reform-friendly candidates in opposition to the
government - both liberals and Islamists - increased
their majority in parliament. Nevertheless, the new
government also came to be dominated by the Sabah
family. The Emir appointed a nephew, Nasir al-Muhammad
al-Sabah, as prime minister.
Constant conflict between government / parliament
When the new parliament was convened in July 2006,
against the will of the government, the new electoral
law was adopted which reduced the number of
constituencies from 25 to five; ten members would be
elected in each constituency.
In March 2007, the government resigned. One day
earlier, a vote of no confidence in Parliament had been
directed at the Minister of Health, a member of the
ruling family but accused of financial mismanagement and
a series of medical mistakes that led to the death of
several patients. The emir immediately called on Sheikh
Nasir to form a new government.
A year later, it was time again. After a dispute with
Parliament, which wanted to raise the salaries of civil
servants, the government resigned in March 2008.
Parliament was dissolved and new elections announced in
Although over half of the Kuwaiti voters were women,
none of the 27 women running for parliament was elected.
The election campaign had been dominated by financial
issues. Islamists, both Sunnis and Shi'ites, won 26 of
the 50 seats and Liberal candidates got seven seats.
Government-friendly candidates took most of the other
mandates. After the election, Nasir was again given the
task of forming a government.
Nor did this government survive: it resigned in
November 2008 after some MPs tried to hold the prime
minister accountable for failing to fulfill his office;
the revolting members felt that corruption by state
funds had increased during his tenure. But already in
December of the same year Nasir was re-elected as head
of government and in early 2009 he formed a new
government, where most of the previous government
ministers were present.
This government also resigned after a short time.
When some MPs in March 2009 initiated a process to put
the prime minister in charge of misuse of public funds,
he again chose to submit his resignation application.
The king accepted this, dissolved the parliament and
announced new elections.
Between 2006 and 2011, the government was reorganized
seven times under the same Prime Minister, Nasir
al-Muhammad al-Sabah. Although the Sheikh was in
blustery weather during his reign, accused of corruption
and misuse of public funds, it delayed until the fall of
2011 before he was finally forced out of power. By then,
Kuwait had been included in the so-called Arab Spring,
that is, the revolt for democracy that in early 2011
spread from Tunisia and beyond into North Africa and the
Middle East. From February, hostile demonstrations were
held in the streets and in November, dissatisfaction
culminated when a rumor claimed that Sheikh Nasir had
bribed support from 15 parliamentarians to stay in
power. Oppositionists stormed Parliament and Nasir and
his government were allowed to step down.