Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Kuwait and its Democracy

I don't often blog news articles from the Times because I feel that most people see them in one form or another on the web already, but I thought this piece on Kuwait is worthy of attention. I was last in Kuwait in 2007 when I spent two months there. Notwithstanding the occasional autocratic moments of the emir, and the privileged place of the al-Sabah family, one cannot help but be struck by the penchant for debate and even contestation that one senses there. In contrast to any of the other emirates (or kingdoms) in the Gulf, there is a transparent political process in Kuwait. The red-lines are real too, but the regime is nonetheless constrained by public scrutiny and debate.
Of course, the conditions under which South Asian expats often work in Kuwait illustrate that this is not a picture-perfect situation, and anomie among the Kuwaiti youth is real cause for concern. There is also a lot of hypocrisy, such as the ready availability of black market booze ($350 for a case of Corona beer, $150 and up for a bottle of Scotch) for thirsty Kuwaitis.
All of that said, we still need to stop and ponder how it is that Kuwait has succeeded in creating a more participant political society than any of its neighbors.

In Democracy Kuwait Trusts, but Not Much - New York Times

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