Kuwait is mired in gerontocracy
More discreet than its neighbors, tiny Kuwait is the Arabian Peninsula’s most prosperous economy, endowed with a $750 billion sovereign wealth fund for 1.8 million people. The turbulent parliament is freely elected, and prime ministers appointed by the emir are regularly removed from office. Kuwaitis are the only Gulf residents allowed to criticize their leaders. However, they are gripped by a lethargy that borders on a coma.
At 85, Emir Nawafal-Sabah has shrunk considerably. Other Gulf states have passed the baton to the younger generation, but Al-Sabah continue to pass it on with shaky hands between octogenarian brothers. In his last public appearance in June, the Emir barely managed a brief speech. His half-brother and heir-designate Mishal is 81 years old. And the system is a fleeting hybrid of monarchy and democracy. Parliament can oppose certain laws, cook ministers and overthrow governments. While the Emir can dissolve Parliament and rule by decree. Since the former Emir’s death in 2020, the country has had five separate governments. The last took office last month, but new general elections are already taking place on September 29. Faced with this paralysis, the Emir is threatening “strong measures,” a euphemism for martial law, if these elections don’t allow him to finally form a stable government.
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