The Kuwaiti National Assembly (NA) is composed of 50 members, elected by universal suffrage, and since 2006 with women participating as both voters and candidates. The NA has been suspended constitutionally (and unconstitutionally) on several occasions since 1963, and did not function on a regular basis until 1992, after the occupation of the country by Iraq and the following restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty. Disagreement between MPs and Ministers has been constant in Kuwaiti politics and has caused 4 suspensions of the NA and consecutive legislative elections in the last 6 years.
Oman’s Consultative Council elections were the third with universal suffrage to be held in the country, after those of 2003 and 2007. They took place following popular protests earlier in the year - the widest the Sultanate had experienced since the end of the Dhofar war in the 1970s. In a country where political associations are banned and civil society is notably less organised than in Bahrain or Kuwait, the ‘Omani Spring' was marked by the death of two protesters in the Northern town of Sohar in February and April.
The surprising events that began on 17 December with the immolation of a young Mohammed Bouazizi in the city of Sidi Bouzid would unleash a national catharsis of unprecedented consequences with a far-reaching impact. The incident, the result of an individual humiliation, transformed itself into a collective realisation among broad swathes of society that their situation was indignant and intolerable. In Sfax, then in Tunis and little by little across the whole country, these groups rose up, rousing a protest against the regime that was both decentralised and unstoppable.
2011 will no doubt go down in history as the year when the Arab peoples rose up against the dictatorships and autocracies that had, post-independence, become the exclusive model of governance in this part of the world. The demands for freedom and democracy, denominated the Arab Spring, had a domino effect and soon called into question the myth of Moroccan exceptionality.
Bahrain’s 2011 parliamentary by-elections were held following the resignation in February of 18 MPs from the main opposition association, al-Wefaq, who had been elected in October 2010 (see report on Bahrain’s 2010 parliamentary elections). This decision was taken in reaction to the government’s violence against protesters who gathered at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama to demand a new Constitution with an elected Prime Minister and full legislative powers for the Council of Representatives.
In the heat of the 'Arab Spring' five electoral processes have been held in states that form part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, neither the international news media nor electoral analysts have paid much attention to these elections. At OPEMAM, we wish to underline the importance of these elections - in spite of their idiosyncrasies and shortcomings - amidst the wave of changes affecting the entire region.
The elections of the members of Qatar's Central Municipal Council (CMC) that took place on 10 May, are the fourth such to be held since the council was first elected in 1999. The CMC is, furthermore, the only Qatari institution whose members are elected by Qatari citizens.