GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Electoral Tribalism in Kuwait: An Instrument of the State or a Civil Society Movement?
Paper Proposal Text :
Kuwaiti tribes that once dominated politics inside the emirate have impressively adjusted to their political climate, maintaining cohesion in a hybrid monarchical-parliamentary system which has historically fostered ideological, rather than clan, identification. In response, the government has either tried to bolster tribal representation in parliament or, in recent years, mitigate it by cracking down on previously outlawed tribal primaries and by redrawing electoral districts to limit tribal influence. Nonetheless, tribes have persisted as influential political actors in Kuwait, as well as elsewhere in the Gulf. The Kuwaiti case, exhibiting a relatively open political system, provides the most transparent case for the examination of how elections have shaped and changed the agendas of tribal constituents, how tribes have used the opportunity of parliamentary elections to advance their own agendas, and how the government, in turn, has sought to manage the electoral process.

This paper will trace the degree to which Kuwait’s powerful tribes have been courted by the state or have been allowed to maintain autonomy from it by examining recent changes in electoral districting and electoral law that reveal the extent to which the government can shape parliamentary composition with legislation on elections. Using statistical analysis of tribes’ gains in elections both before and after redistricting in 2006 and before and after the change to electoral law in 2012, this paper will show how tribes have been affected by policies of the executive that have changed parliamentary life and also how their loyalties have shifted increasingly away from the government and towards a cross-ideological opposition.