x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Kuwaiti democracy falters again

The Emirati daily Al Ittihad ran an opinion piece by Shamlan al Aissi where he reviewed the causes and possible aftermath of the "new crisis" in Kuwaiti politics. Why is democracy still not fully grounded in the Kuwaiti experience?

The Emirati daily Al Ittihad ran an opinion piece by Shamlan al Aissi where he reviewed the causes and possible aftermath of the "new crisis" in Kuwaiti politics. Why is democracy still not fully grounded in the Kuwaiti experience? "The government does not enjoy the parliamentary majority necessary to ease the passage of bills and projects," al Aissi wrote. "The elections are not based on party formations for, in spite of their de facto existence and operation, parties are still banned. Consequently, the government ends up with no party or political movement to uphold its programmes in parliament."

International news agencies have reported that a decision to dissolve the Kuwaiti parliament will soon be announced, raising to three the number of times the Kuwaiti parliament was dissolved under the rule of Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad Jaber Al Sabah. "If the parliament is dissolved, the country will enter a new phase of tense politics," al Aissi wrote. "The case of Kuwaiti openness to democratic change is quite exceptional in the Gulf. As the first democratic experience in the region, everyone sees it as a model offering a perspective on the efficiency of government and within a democratic framework."

The pan-Arab daily Al Hayat carried a comment article by its regular columnist Yassin al Hajj Saleh on the impediments that contribute to Syria's inscrutability in both local and international understanding. "Syrians fail to conceive of their own country as an independent subject of study because of many obstacles that boil down to Syria being unreadable and unexplored by its own elites."

First and foremost, the exaggerated politicising of culture and knowledge in the country takes its toll. "In Syria, everything is political. But political concerns are only circumstantial and shot-term, and characterised by conflict and polarisation. These last two elements run counter the sine qua non conditions for achieving a certain understanding, conditions such as detachment and historical perspective, and above all, the methodical and institutional independence of knowledge."

Excessive politicisation is caused, on the one hand, by poor institutionalisation, Saleh argues, and on the other, by the frantic "ideologisation" of all public affairs, which either frustrates or debilitates any aspiration to reason.

A regular commentator at the London-based pan-Arab daily Ashraq Al Awsat, Tariq al Hameed wrote an opinion piece on the recurrence of "impertinent" religious arguments forwarded by Arab leaders in crises that are otherwise strictly political. "Here we are again witnessing the same rehearsal that comes with every Arab crisis. Here is Ali Larijani, the Iranian parliament speaker, saying in Khartoum that the warrant against the Sudanese president Omar al Bashir is an affront to Muslims." Al Hameed maintains that the real questions to be considered are: Aren't Darfour victims themselves Muslim? And isn't it affronting enough to "Islamic" Iran that such oppression be meted out to the people of Darfour?

In a direct address to president al Bashir, Al Hameed wrote: "Those same folks who came to Khartoum, kissing and embracing you in show of support, are none but those who pushed Saddam Hussein, and others in the region, into fatal errors. They know how to boost egos and groundless confidence, then they leave you alone to face the heat. Now, quite simply, reporting time has come."

The Moroccan independent daily Assabah ran a front-page article on "new diplomatic activity between Morocco and Algeria and the Polisario Front," aiming to find a solution to their three-decade-old Western Sahara conflict. "Informed sources said foreign parties are trying to arrange a first meeting, to be confirmed after the Algerian presidential elections. During the meeting, direct negotiations will take place in order to find solutions to pending issues between the parties involved, away from media coverage."

The prospective series of closed meetings are to proceed with concurrent UN efforts to facilitate another round of the Manhasset talks in New York. "The same sources estimated that the recent meetings of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, with the Moroccan and Algerian foreign ministers in Sharm el Sheikh had to do with arrangements to have the US administration supervise those meetings, which will also tackle security and intelligence cooperation," reported Assabah.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae