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Kuwait Country Page.
Type: Constitutional hereditary emirate.
Independence: June 19, 1961 (from U.K.).
Constitution: Approved and promulgated November 11, 1962.
Branches: Executive--Amir (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Council of Ministers (cabinet) is appointed by prime minister and approved by the Amir. Legislative--unicameral elected National Assembly (Majlis al-'Umma) of 50 members who serve 4-year terms. Judicial--High Court of Appeal.
Administrative subdivisions: Six governorates (muhafazat): Al 'Asimah, Hawalli, Al Ahmadi, Al Jahra', Mubarak Al-Kebir, and Al Farwaniyah.
Political parties: None; formal political parties are banned although de facto political blocs exist.
Elections: There are no executive branch elections; the Amir is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir. Legislative branch elections were last held July 5, 2003 (next National Assembly election is due in 2007) Suffrage: Adult males who have been citizens for 20 years and are not in the security forces (about 14% of all citizens).
Government of Kuwait
Kuwait is a constitutional, hereditary emirate ruled by princes (Amirs) who have been drawn from the Al Sabah family for over 200 years. The 1962 constitution provides for an elected National Assembly and details the powers of the branches of government and the rights of citizens. Under the Constitution, the National Assembly has a limited role in approving the Amir’s choice of the Crown Prince, who succeeds the Amir upon his death. If the National Assembly rejects his nominee, the Amir then submits three names of qualified candidates from among the direct descendants of Mubarak the Great, from which the Assembly must choose the new Crown Prince. Successions have been orderly since independence.
For almost 40 years, the Amir has appointed the Crown Prince as Kuwait’s Prime Minister. However, in an unprecedented development, the Amir formally separated the two positions and appointed a new Prime Minister in July 2003.
Kuwait's first National Assembly was elected in 1963, with follow-on elections held in 1967, 1971, and 1975. From 1976 to 1981, the National Assembly was suspended. Following elections in 1981 and 1985, the National Assembly was again dissolved. Fulfilling a promise made during the period of Iraqi occupation, the Amir held new elections for the National Assembly in 1992. On May 4, 1999, the Amir once again dissolved the National Assembly. This time, however, it was done through entirely constitutional means, and new elections were held on July 3, 1999. The most recent general election, held in July 2003, was considered free and fair, although there were some credible reports of vote buying by the government and the opposition.
The government bans formal political parties, but de facto political blocs exist and are typically organized along ideological lines. Although the Amir maintains the final word on most government policies, the National Assembly plays a real role in decision-making, with powers to initiate legislation, question Cabinet ministers, and express lack of confidence in individual ministers. For example, in May 1999, the Amir issued several landmark decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality. The National Assembly later rejected all of these decrees as a matter of principle and then reintroduced most of them as parliamentary legislation.