The results of Kuwait’s 2020 parliamentary elections signal continuation and intensification of a conservative turn as Kuwaitis elected an all-male parliament with the Islamist opposition strengthening its position in the 50-member National Assembly. There was the reelection of 19 MPs from the outgoing Assembly, a return of 7 former MPs after several years away from politics — including some significant opposition figures — and the entrance of a bulk of first-time MPs, who form almost half of the new Assembly. Two former Ministers, Badr Nasser Al-Humaidi and Shuaib Shabbab Al-Muwaizri, entered the parliament. The fact that less than a half of the incumbent MPs running for reelection in 2020 managed to secure seats in the Assembly mirrors the electorate’s discontent with the results of the previous legislature as the country faces several challenges, including COVID-19, low oil prices, corruption, rising public debt and liquidity crisis, and a demographic dilemma. Some other MPs also raised, for example, the issue of the status of the bidoon, or the electoral system, which since 2012 allows voters to pick only one candidate instead of four. The new parliament, and government, need to avoid deadlocks over pressing issues, such as the public debt law, and find a common ground to navigate Kuwait out of its looming economic crisis.
The MP-elects include personalities with backgrounds ranging from law, political science, security and military apparatus, to banking and economics. Yet, the diversity of the new MPs backgrounds was not translated into gender diversity as no women were elected to the parliament in 2020. The failure to elect any women parliamentarians points to the long-standing challenges related to deep-rooted traditions and prejudice faced by female candidates. The first and third districts put forward the most female candidates (9 each), the second and fifth districts had 4 each, while no woman ran in the fourth district. Ghadeer Asiri, former Minister of Social Affairs, placed first among female candidates in the first district, overall 19th, with 1,119 votes. Ealiat Al-Khalid ranked 13th in the second district with 1,307 votes and was the only woman to make it to top 15 in 2020. In the third district, Shaikha Al-Jassim placed 25th with 642 votes, while the only female MP of the outgoing Assembly, Safaa Al-Hashem, lost the election receiving only 430 votes, approximately eight times less than in 2016. Khadija Al-Qallaf placed the 31st in the 5th district, the highest of the four female candidates. Ahead of the first session of the 16th legislative term on 15 December 2020, the majority of the new lawmakers showed an intent to replace Marzouq Al-Ghanem, who has been the Assembly’s Speaker since 2013, despite his election win in the second district. His successor could become Bader Nasser Al-Humaidi, former Minister of Public Works (2003-2007), who reportedly received an endorsement from 40 MPs.
In line with the tradition, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, in office since November 2019, resigned after the elections but Emir Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah decided to reappoint him as Prime Minister to form the next Cabinet, the first under the new Emir. The new 15-member government was approved by the Emir on Monday, 14 December. There are a few survivors from the previous Cabinet, such as Ahmed Nasser Al-Muhammad Al-Sabah, who will continue as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Rana Abdullah Al-Fares, the only woman in government, who will remain the Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Municipal Affairs. But there are also several significant changes. Kuwait’s former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and former Minister of Information, Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah, will become the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. The Ministry of Interior will be controlled by Thamer Ali Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who led Kuwait’s National Security Bureau since its establishment in 1997, first as Deputy Chief and since 2013 as its President, which will return the Ministry’s leadership to the Al-Sabah ruling family. Khaled Ali Mohammad Al-Fadhel was replaced by Mohammed Abdul Latif Al-Faris, member of the board of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, as Minister of Oil and Minister of Electricity and Water. Khalifa Hamade, former Undersecretary at Ministry of Finance, was appointed as its Chief, replacing Barak Al-Shitan. According to the law, at least one of the new MPs will be part of the Cabinet—the reelected MP from the first district, Issa Ahmad Al-Kandari, will become Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.
Kuwait’s 2020 Parliamentary Elections Results by Districts
In the first district, 3 MPs — Issa Ahmad Al-Kandari (3,398 votes), Adnan Abdulsamad Zahed (3,052 votes, MP since 1981) and Osama Issa Al-Shaheen (2,167 votes) — of the 2016 Assembly were reelected. Adnan Abdulsamad Zahed is affiliated with the Shia National Islamic Alliance and is at the same time the oldest serving MP of the new Assembly, entering the parliament in 1981. Zahed stirred a controversy in 2008 for taking part in an event celebrating Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah leader responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, as a hero after following his death that year. Two former MPs — Hassan Abdullah Johar and Ahmed Khalifa Al-Shuhoomi 4,129 votes (2006) — returned to the Assembly after more than a decade. Johar, a former Shia-affiliated MP (1996-2008), won the first district’s polls, celebrating his return with 5,849 votes after boycotting the elections for the past 8 years due to the new electoral system. Half of the 10 MPs elected in the first district were elected for the first time, namely Yusuf Fahad Al-Ghurayyeb 5,064 votes, Hamad Ahmad Rouhuddine 3,783 votes, Ali Abdulrasool Al-Qattan 3,320 votes, Abdullah Mohammad Al-Turaiji 2,472 votes, Abdullah Jassem Al-Mudhaf 3,437 votes. More than 70% of eligible voter in the first districted participated in the elections.
Half of the 10 MPs elected in the second district consisted of reelected members of the 2016 Assembly, including the incumbent Speaker, Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanim, who topped the elections in the second district by a big margin with 5,179 votes. The other four reelected MPs are: Mohammad Barrak Al-Mutair (3,456 votes), Khalil Ibrahim Al-Saleh (3,117 votes), Badr Hamed Al-Mulla (2,483 votes), and Hamad Saif Al-Harshani (2,208 votes), who is in his 75 years also the oldest MP of the entire new National Assembly. Hamad Mohammad Al-Matar, who was an MP in 2012, returned to the Assembly with 3,903 votes. As in the first district, the second half of the elected MPs consists of those entering the Assembly for the first time, which includes also Bader Nasser Al-Humaidi (2,534 votes), who might become the Assembly’s new Speaker, Salman Khaled Al-Azmi (2,866 votes), Khaled Ayed Al-Enezi (2,565 votes) and Ahmed Mohammad Al-Hamad (2,195 votes).
As in the first district, three MPs of the outgoing Assembly were reelected — Abdulkarim Abdullah Al-Kandari (5,585 votes), Yusuf Saleh Al-Fadhalah (2,992 votes) and Saadoun Hammad Al-Otaibi (2,979 votes). Fares Saad Al-Otaibi, who was an MP in 2013 returned to the 2020 parliament with 2,942 votes, while six new MPs were elected — Osama Ahmad Al-Munawer (3,858 votes), Muhannad Talal Al-Sayer (3,565 votes), Hisham Abdulsamad Al-Saleh (3,345 votes), Abdulaziz Tareq Al-Saqabi (3,340 votes), Mubarak Zaid Al-Mutairi (2,982 votes), Muhalhal Khaled Al-Mudhaf (2,904 votes). Interestingly, except for the winner, Abdulkarim Abdullah Al-Kandari, who has been in the parliament since 2013, new incoming MPs were endorsed by more voters than the reelected ones, signifying a demand for a change. According to the official data, voter turnout in the third district was 68%.
Fourth district marked almost 71% voter turnout in which four MPs were reelected — Shuaib Shabbab Al-Muwaizri (6,200 votes), Thamer Saad Al-Dhefeeri (4,935 votes), Saad Ali Al-Rashidi (4,520 votes), Mubarak Haif Al-Hajraf (4,422 votes) — while six MPs were elected for the first time — Fayez Ghannam Al-Mutairi (5,774 votes), Musaad Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi (5,750 votes), Mohammed Obaid Al-Rajhi (5,198 votes), Saud Saad Al-Mutairi (5,100 votes), Marzouq Khalifa Al-Khalifa (4,760 votes), Farz Mohammad Al-Daihani (4,701 votes). Shuaib Shabbab Al-Muwaizri, a leading opposition figure, who entered the parliament in 2009 and formerly served as Minister of State for Housing and for National Assembly Affairs, won the elections in the fourth district. Al-Muwaizri as well as several of the newly elected MPs in this district were previously part of Kuwait’s security and military apparatus, having served at Ministry of Interior or in the Army.
The fifth district reelected four MPs — Hamdan Salem Al-Azmi (8,387 votes), Khaled Mohammad Al-Otaibi (5,387 votes), Mohammad Hadi Al-Huwaila (4,720 votes, a long time MP) and Nasser Saad Al-Dossari (4,750 votes), who, in his 34 years, continues to be the youngest elected member of the new parliament. Three former MPs — Badr Zayed Al-Azmi (8,371 votes), Al Saifi Mubarak Al-Ajmi (6,294 votes), Ahmed Abdullah Al-Azmi (4,651 votes) — returned to the parliament after several years, while three new personalities — Mubarak Abdullah Al-Ajmi (6,801 votes), Hammoud Mubarak Al-Azmi (5,347 votes), Saleh Theyab Al-Mutairi (5,113 votes) — were sent to the Assembly for the first time. Hamdan Al-Azmi served as an MP since 2013 and won the fifth district’s elections with 8,387 votes, only 17 points ahead of Badr Zayed Al-Azmi, who returned after being an MP in 2012 and following the election boycott. These two received the most votes of all 50 MPs.
14 December 2020
Read more articles from EGIC’s series on Kuwait Parliamentary Elections 2020:
• Sophie Smith examined the functioning and composition of GCC countries’ parliaments in her info-sheet: An Overview of the GCC Countries’ Parliaments, which contains a useful infographic.
• Dr Gerald Power looked at the history and evolution of Kuwait’s elections from the 1960s in his article: Kuwait’s Electoral Rollercoaster: The al-Sabah, the National Assembly and Gulf Democracy.
• Amid a record number of women running in the 2020 elections, Romy Haber spoke to one of the female candidates about the challenges they face, and founder of Mudhawi’s List about efforts to support them: Record Number of Women Brace for Tough Fight in Kuwaiti Elections.
• Nikola Zukalová looked at some of Kuwait’s key pressing challenges (e.g. economy) ahead of the elections, candidate’s campaigns and some future issues for the new executive and legislative: Kuwait’s Parliamentary Elections 2020: Topics, Trends and Challenges.