Happy National and Liberation days! I hope you and your families had a lovely holiday celebrating everything red, black, white and green. I personally think that Kuwait has a very unique history, from the traders and ship merchants, to the oil boom and natural resources and the Gulf wars. The history has therefore been reflected in the Kuwaiti culture. We are very similar, yet different than the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and you can see this in this year’s National and Liberation day ads by companies.
The ads refer to Kuwaitis as food lovers, easygoing ones (and loud ones too), the business men and women, and most importantly the creative individuals of the region. Therefore, it is no surprise that the culture is reflected in the laws and legislations. Today I will be discussing laws that make Kuwait’s culture unique and how the laws affect us in very simple terms.
Questions: I heard that Kuwait has one of the first constitutions in the region and that the constitution is very advanced. Is this true? How does it affect our lives?
Fajer: Yes, Kuwait’s constitution came into effect on November 11, 1962, and although the day is not a public holiday, it is celebrated in Kuwait. The constitution has articles that promote good health, education, prosperity, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equality, protection of the environment and other morals that appreciate the community and life in general. The most popular article is article 29 that states: “1. All people are equal in human dignity and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction to race, origin, language, or religion. 2. Personal liberty is guaranteed.”
Constitutions are the baseline for laws, so thankfully in Kuwait we have a constitution that is progressive. But we cannot say that we have not had legislations in Kuwait that are deemed unconstitutional or in other words stood against freedoms and rights in the constitution. When such a situation happens, the laws can be taken to a constitutional court and the court can make the law unenforceable.
Question: Is it true that Kuwait has a very fair and democratic parliament or National Assembly compared to other countries in the region? Can you explain more on how the parliament works?
Fajer: This question is political as well as legal and there are different perspectives to look at. I will need to answer this question through research if I really wanted to put together a thorough answer. In general though, it is fair to say that Kuwait’s National Assembly is different to other GCC countries. The people of Kuwait do take part in a fair election. Many scholars state that Kuwait has a stronger parliament compared to other GCC countries and attribute this to our history. There are multiple papers and books written on the matter, so I do not want to get into a lot of detail, but let me explain generally how it works.
The Kuwaiti National Assembly is made up of 50 parliament members that are voted for by the public. The parliament members then can suggest laws and vote for them along with the ministers, who are chosen by His Highness the Amir of Kuwait. The ministers can only be a third of the number of parliament members and since we have 50 members, ministers usually at 15-16. When they vote collectively, depending on the type of law, a certain quota must be met, but generally speaking if the majority vote for the law then the law comes into effect after following a certain process.
I am very proud to be Kuwaiti and I am also grateful for the laws that we have (even though we still need to improve). I hope you all appreciate the country you live in whether you are Kuwaiti or not, and be grateful for the rights and freedoms that we have. Regardless of the law though, let us all treat each other with love and respect, making Kuwait a better place.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed