By Geoffrey Martin
January 10, 2017
The results of Kuwait’s recent parliamentary elections, held on November 26, have significant implications for the Arab Gulf country’s citizens. Although the Kuwaiti government asserts that the surprise dissolution in October of the National Assembly was due to “circumstances in the region” and security challenges, the move was actually part of the government’s strategy, albeit ill-fated, to create a more favorable balance in the new parliament between opposition and government.
The government is justifiably concerned with the country’s political environment. The years between 2006 and 2013 were fraught with tension related to parliamentary dysfunction. Street protests in response to the paralysis of the country’s political and economic institutions were frequent.
The subsequent “pro-government” 2013 parliament was, in contrast, the most stable Assembly in many years and was compliant only because the main opposition groups had boycotted the previous election in 2013. Nonetheless, the lowering of fuel subsidies during this period has created widespread discontent among broad swathes of Kuwaiti society. Since September, the price of premium gas has risen by 83 percent (to USD 0.55 a litre), mid-grade 62 percent (to USD 0.35), and regular 42 percent (to USD 0.28) – the first major reduction in subsidies throughout 50 years of pricing controls.
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*Geoffrey Martin is an advisor at Gulf State Analytics. Based in Kuwait, he is a visiting researcher at the Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait. Martin’s research focuses on the effects of oil wealth distribution on social dynamics from a historical and economic perspective. He has written numerous op-eds for Zenith magazine, based in Germany, and is also a contributor at the Rai Institute, an extension of the Kuwaiti Al Rai Media Group.