The Government and Politics of Kuwait: Principles and Practices, by Abdul-Reda As
siri. Shaab, Kuwait: Al Watan Printing Press, 1996. 175 pages. Appends. to p. 224. Bibl. to p. 235. n.p.
Reviewed by Richard P. Stevens
This work, as Abdul-Reda Assiri asserts in his concluding chapter, is intended as a general introductory book and "is an attempt to give the reader an understanding, an awareness, and some knowledge of the political system in Kuwait as well as to raise several queries in connection with the government and politics of the country" (p. 169). In terms of the author's stated objective, it is fair to say that this modest goal has been achieved. In large part, however, the book is less an interpretation and analysis of Kuwaiti politics than a detailed, almost encyclopedic, presentation of the basic elements of the government.
Chapter one presents a brief summary of the history and geography of Kuwait and is useful in relating the evolution of Kuwait's political system to the rule of the Al-Sabah dynasty, which dates from the mid-18th century. The chapter draws upon a wide range of Arabic sources and quite convincingly shows how the simple principle of shura, or consultation, turned into a form of political participation under a series of constitutions. These constitutions provided the foundations of various public institutions and enabled the creation of a loose balance of power between the Al-Sabah dynasty, the merchant class and bedouin tribal leaders.
Chapters two, three and five, although presenting useful details on the three branches of the government-legislative, executive and judicial-do not analyze the composition and practice of these branches, as might have been expected. For example, although Assiri refers to the situation in 1993, when 39 members of the National Assembly, requested the government to amend the second article of the constitution, he offers no analysis of the article in question and states no opinion on the government's negative reaction. Rather, he simply states that "the government declined the proposal" (p. 59). Another example of a lack of analysis is the author's assertion that the 16th cabinet could be regarded as more flexible and harmonious than all the previous cabinets because, among other reasons, it included representatives of religious trends and structures, such as the Popular Islamic Union "Salaf" and the Islamic Constitutional Movement "Ikwan." No explanation is advanced, however, to enlighten the reader as to the different philosophies or objectives of these groups. …