Kuwait's New Parliament Lacks That Female Touch

Published February 19th, 2012 - 02:17 GMT
When the women are away, the men will play: Kuwait's new parliament could do with a greater female presence. (Image source: "mideastposts.com")
When the women are away, the men will play: Kuwait's new parliament could do with a greater female presence. (Image source: "mideastposts.com")

It seems that since women fell short in parliamentary elections, the government decided to feature a men’s only Cabinet as well. Unfortunately, the women who were in parliament and in the government in the previous period brought a fresh new educated perspective that does not suit the requirements for Kuwaiti politics these days. In short, they did not shout nonsense and use insults and they respected the laws of the land. However, this actually might be for the best because many things in the Kuwaiti society are still taboo between men and women and this parliament is promising to be more vulgar than ever since many people succeeded in the elections for the wrong reasons.

The opening ceremony was anything but smooth, with MPs starting a war of words right from the start of the voting process for the speaker of the parliament. It is a custom in Kuwait that in the opening session, the eldest MP fills in as temporary speaker till the new speaker is voted in. The electronic voting system was dropped by fill-in speaker Khaled Al-Sultan without any explanation other than it was within his rights to do so. This was not met well by many MPs, who wanted to know the reasons behind that. Then people from every corner of the parliament started shouting either for or against this process and the session was in chaos. One person from the audience had to be carried out by guards as he lost his temper and shouted, “this is the parliament of Kandahar not Kuwait”, making a sarcastic reference to the number of Islamists in this parliament and their obvious influence on this decision. Finally, order was restored and the voting went on.

When the results were announced, there was a large cheer from the crowd that were mainly pro-opposition, and suddenly a fight broke out in the VIP guest section of all places as two supporters of some MPs took things too far with their support. They had to be carried out as well. Is this the caliber of secretaries and staff our MPs bring along into the VIP sections of the parliament?

The thing that attracted my attention was the way many MPs took their oath. Some MPs recited it with seriousness, some recited it with a tone of unserious mockery and some Islamists added words such as “with what is acceptable to God I swear…….”, which makes me wonder if this is their way of opposing the law since it seems like they can decide what is acceptable to God in their own opinions anyways? As for those who used a mocking sarcastic tone, I really have no explanation to what their role in parliament is going to be other than turning our political stage into a circus.

However, there were some good signs and even a few MPs who actually set an example. MPs who opposed the voting process more notably, such as Marzouq Al-Ghanem, Ali Al-Rashed and Mohammed Al-Saqer, accepted the decision that seemed to be the will of the majority. MP Ahmad Al-Saadoun who was competing for the position of speaker with MP Al-Saqer allowed his opponent to voice his concerns and respected the opinions of everybody by staying out of the debate, which was the move that helped to restore order to the session. Obviously his years of experience came into hand. When the results were announced and Al-Saadoun won, Al-Saqer was graceful in defeat, congratulated Al-Saadoun, offered his support to what is in the benefit of Kuwait and thanked all those who supported him and those who relieved him from the responsibility of the position of speaker.

These MPs showed the true spirit of democracy – speak your case, argue your argument with respect, but then accept gracefully the outcome of the democratic choice of the majority. Unfortunately, many other MPs would have taken this to the streets and probably hype their people to storm the parliament if they failed to achieve what they wanted. Hopefully, they will learn.

His Highness the Amir made a reference to respecting each other and respecting opposing opinions the way Kuwait traditionally was and will hopefully remain. HH the Amir also referred to the fact that Kuwait is a country governed by law and that no one is above the law. Hopefully this parliament and this government will surprise us for a change and regain our trust in our democracy. God bless Kuwait.

By Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

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