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Kuwait Modern History

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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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 out.

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.

Contemporary History of KuwaitIraq invades

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 Conservative members.

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 terrorist network.

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 services office.

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 May.

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.

 
 

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