In an Autocratic Region, a Glimmer of Democracy as Kuwaitis Cast Votes

As the clock struck noon on Thursday, the doors to dozens of polling stations across Kuwait opened and voters rushed in to elect one of the Middle East’s most robust parliaments.

Candidates set up makeshift headquarters in tents, and coffee shops pledged discounts to voters. Swarms of people waited to cast their ballots — even though it was the fourth time in four years that they had been called upon to choose a new Parliament.

“Parliament members convey the voice of the people,” a voter, Asraa Al Ghareb, 31, said, adding that she hoped the new Parliament would bring “actual and radical change for Kuwait.”

Kuwait is far from a full democracy: Its ruler is a hereditary monarch, political parties are illegal, and the emir has the power to dissolve Parliament — the cause of Thursday’s snap election. Frequent deadlocks between Parliament and the executive branch have led to political turmoil.

But across a Middle East where many states are becoming more repressive, Kuwait represents a rare alternative, scholars say, nurturing elements of democracy even after Arab Spring uprisings across the region were crushed more than a decade ago, and countries including Tunisia and Egypt began to march back toward authoritarianism.

While they cast their votes and expressed frustration at the political chaos in their country, young Kuwaitis said they were hopeful to see real change.

Back to top button