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History & Facts

Democracy and the Constitution

Kuwait adopted democracy and Shoura to be the principles of running the country's affairs. Democracy, which is based on public participation, serves justice and provides security for both ruler and subjects.

Kuwait's democracy march started on February 22, 1921 when the country's dignitaries met the ruling Sabah family demanding greater participation in running the country. As a result of the meeting, the first Shoura (consultative) council was established in June 1921, paving the way for a greater a reformist steps which are the establishment of the first and second Legislative Councils in 1938 and 1939.

That democratic experience, though short-lived, was unique in the changes it provoked in the Kuwaiti reality and thinking. It opened the way for the second stage of democracy in post-independence Kuwait in 1961. On August 26, 1961, the Amir of Kuwait Shiekh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah issued the amiri decree No.12 calling for the establishment of Constituent Assembly to draft the country's constitution.

The Organizational Body, comprised of 11 members, succeeded in drafting law No. 25/1961 on the election of Constituent Assembly members. Accordingly, the first general elections were held on December 30, 1961 to elect 20 members. In huge celebration, the Amir opened its first session oin January 20, 1962 in the Municipal House. It held 32 sittings until January 15, 1963 and is accredited with drafting the country's constitution and rules regulating the National Assembly' elections.

The great interest paid in putting the Constitution by both the Constituent Assembly and H.H. the Amir Shiekh Abdullah Al- Salem Al- Sabah, as culminated with the Assembly's consensus in adopting the bill on November 3, 1962 and the Amir's ratification of the Constitution on November 11, 1963. It was later published in a special edition of the Official gazette.

Both people, represented by the Assembly, and the Amir cooperated in making the constitution. Neither party can solely amend the constitution. This was stipulated by the explanatory memorandum which stipulates “ No amendment shall be brought forward unless the two parties which cooperated in drafting the constitution, namely the Amir and the (Constituent) Assembly."

The constitution is divided into five parts and includes 183 articles. The first part deals with the State and the System of Government, stipulating that "Kuwait is an Arab State, independent and fully sovereign…. The People of Kuwait is part of the Arab Nation… The religion of the State is Islam and the official language is Arabic.... The System of Government in Kuwait shall be democratic."

The second part deals with the Fundamental Constituents of the Kuwaiti Society. It stipulates that “Justice, liberty and equality are pillars of the society.... The State safeguards that pillars of the society and ensures security, tranquility and equal opportunities for citizens."

It also stipulates that “the family is the corner-stone of the Society. It is founded on religion, morality and patriotism. Law shall preserve the integrity of the family, strengthen its ties and protect under its auspices motherhood and childhood."

According to the constitution “The State cares for the young... ensures aid for citizen in old age or inability to work". It also says that "Education is a fundamental requisite ...private property is inviolable" and that the "National Economy shall be based on social justice. It is founded on fair cooperation between the public and private sector.

The third part of the constitution deals with Public rights and Duties which stipulates that "No Kuwaiti may be deported from Kuwait or prevented from returning ...All people are equal in Human dignity, and in public rights and duties before the law, without distinction as trace, origin, language or religion."

"The freedom of belief is absolute.... Freedom of opinion and scientific research shall be guaranteed," says the Constitution. It also guarantees the freedom of press, communication by post and to form associations and unions.

The fourth part of the constitution deals with powers while the first chapter of this part includes General Provision which stipulates that the System of Government is based on the principle of the separation of the powers functioning in cooperation with each other in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

“Legislative power shall be vested in the Amir and the National Assembly ...The executive power shall be vested in the Amir, the Cabinet and the Ministers.... The judicial power shall be vested in the Courts, which shall exercise it in the name of the Amir," says the Constitution.

The second chapter deals with the Head of State, which stipulates in article 54 that "The Amir is the Head State. His person is immune and inviolable. The Amir, According to the constitution shall declare defensive war by decree while offensive war is prohibited. He shall exercise his powers through the ministers.

The third chapter focuses on Legislative Power, which stipulates that "no law may be promulgated unless it has been passed by the National Assembly and sanctioned by the Amir.