The current debate in Kuwait which prompted the Emir to dissolve parliament, , is not out of the ordinary. The reduction of constituencies will undoubtedly change the current structures of powers and might end the political careers of a number of Kuwaiti politicians and the appearance of previously-unheard of political forces. This is all dependent on who draws the constituencies and what they decide to include or not.
In effect, the Kuwaiti political map was altered by two political decisions. The first, was giving women the right to vote; there are now an estimated quarter of a million more voters in the country. The other decision, namely to reduce the number of constituencies to 10 instead of 25, meant that each constituency now has more voters. In the past, three thousand votes were enough to ensure the victory of candidates. Such a small number could be easily achieved by bribery or a small election campaign or through reliance on a limited network of family or tribe.
The new developments, by incorporating women to the political process and enlarging constituencies, will make it almost impossible to control results. Whereas in the past, only 250,000 were eligible to vote, each constituency will now include 20,000 male and female voters, based on previous elections where only half of those eligible will actually cast their votes.
Twenty thousand is by no means a large figure. But, it will be difficult for the government and certain groups to control the results, because it needs to ensure that it delivers the biggest number of its candidates to parliament, which consists of 50 seats. The incorporation of women and the expansion of constituencies will weaken the conventional political powers and may even weaken the ability of the official institution to assist its favorite candidates in joining parliament. At the same time, the biggest and most organized movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement, with their strong mobilization capabilities and organization, will succeed.
Small constituencies have never served the democratic process because the vote can be easily manipulated by the best-organized parties who are then able to guarantee their number of seats in parliament. As Kuwait enters a new stage in its political history, we can’t predict what the future holds. The election results will be more democratic compared to the past. As for the controversy about re-drawing constituencies and reducing their number, it is mostly about detail and does not warrant pushing the country towards a political crisis and the suspension of parliament.