GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Quasi-Institutionalized Party System during the Process of Democratization: The Case of Kuwait
Paper Proposal Text :
This article attempts to present a framework of the structure of inter-party competition within a quasi-institutionalized party system for analyzing Kuwaiti politics. The Gulf countries have been analyzed based on many classifications such as liberalized autocracy (Brumberg 2002), electoral authoritarianism (Schelder 2006), and new authoritarianism (King 2009). However Kuwait has pluralism and comparatively competitive elections compared with other Arab countries. We should pay more attention to this fact and consider their developing democratic practices. The case of Kuwait shed light on the issue of establishing consensus democracy in Arab countries.

The explanatory models such as competitive clientelism (Lust-Okar 2009) and co-optation (Lust-Okar 2006, Gandhi 2008) seem to be relevant to explain how regimes maintain power while accepting the political participation of the opposition and holding elections. These models recognize the election as an opportunity to reassure order within the ruling party, and the role of the parliament as a place of bargaining for economic interest. In addition, they recognize the opposition as a satellite of the ruling party, or an object for control or co-opt. Some scholars try to refute these views with case studies focusing on the Islamic party’s activity, but not looking into its structural framework.

The impacts of the Arab uprisings demolished such models and bring about the issue how to establish consensus democracy in Arab countries for the next step. I would like to look at election and parliamentary politics from a different perspective and analyze the case of Kuwait introducing the framework of a quasi-institutionalized party system. Kuwait has competitive elections, strong opposition in parliament that challenge executive. Surely, there are still some obstacles to full democratization; for example political parties don’t have legal status and can’t form the government. The opposition however, formed parliamentary blocs (kutlah barlamaniyah)with different political orientations (tayyar siyasi) during the 1999-2003 parliamentary turn. Then tribal representatives who support government also formed a bloc during 2006-2008 parliamentary turn. We can see cooperation and competition among blocs in the deliberation of bills and formation of the cabinet. The blocs have different levels of institutionalization, but they perform as parliamentary parties.

The framework of quasi-institutionalized party system originally applied to the democratized post-communist countries (A. Gwiazda 2009). It determines the degree of institutionalization by indicators such as electoral volatility, institutionalization of party, and stability of linkage between party and constituency. For Kuwait, we can recognize a quasi-institutionalized party system when we consider blocs as a basic component of the party system.

In this article, I would like to analyze the relevance of institutionalization of party and stability of linkage between party and constituency to social cleavages. In the Gulf countries, we can see social cleavages such as citizen/ tribe, islamism/ liberalism, and Sunni/ Shiite sectarianism. The case of Kuwait gives us some hints to establish consensus democracy beyond social cleavage, because it seems as a leading example for other Gulf countries. I would like to compare with the case of Bahrain as needed.

The implication of this article is to introduce another approach to the Gulf politics. Focusing on the structure of inter-party or inter-bloc competition, we can make a comparative analysis of developing democratic practices beyond the classification of regime.