I’ve had many many kind conversations with people who are worried about what’s going on in the country and have limited access to facts to decide for themselves. So I decided to write this instead of writing a million whatsapp responses.
What the hell is happening?
The Amir has decided to change the election law, which regardless of it’s constitutionality (there are people arguing both sides), is a breach to the basic democratic principle of separation of powers. The Parliament oversees the branch which the Amir appoints, the executive branch, Prime Ministers and through him ministers; how could parliament keep the government in check if the government has the upper hand in how parliament is selected. Imagine this: restaurants decide who the health and safety inspectors are and how they do their job, how safe is that? Without a separation of powers there is no democracy.
How did the elections law change?
Formerly, in the three elections that passed: 2008, 2009, 2012. Voters in Kuwait’s five districts chose four candidates on their ballot. The top ten candidates in each of the five districts became MPs. So, we each got to choose 40% of the winners.
The Amir decided to change the law to five districts and but each voter selects only one candidate. That means each of us gets to decide 10% of the winning members of parliament.
What’s the big deal, one man, one vote is the way it is in the biggest democracies?
Yes and no. This is not a valid comparison. In most places with one “man”, one vote, only one representative wins the election. Meaning, the voter is actually choosing 100% of the winners. Also, Kuwait has no official party system, so while voters in other democracies choose between party A and party B (and party C in one some places), we vote for individual people without a party platform. So when people in other countries vote for one person, they’re voting for a whole list of policies. When I vote here, I vote for policy A from person A, policy B from person B, etc...
So, we vote for good people who will reject the law in Parliament?
First, the law requires 33 members of parliament voting against it. It's naive to think this number will be achieved.
More importantly, voting legitimizes the way this law was pushed forward. The very act of voting means you agree with the executive branch (Amir and Ministers) meddling in the legislative branch (parliament). It means you believe it is okay for the government to dissolve parliament and change the elections law every time they feel threatened by parliament or simply disagree. Voting means you do not believe in the basic principles of democracy.
Boycotting is not an ideal option. But it’s the loudest message and the biggest act of commitment to democracy we have at the moment.