Legislatures in Authoritarian Rentier States: The Case of Kuwait

By Luai Allarakia
Submitted to Session P4245 (Gulf Studies: Development of State and Society, 2015 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
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What role does the legislature play in an authoritarian, rentier state? Is such a legislature a cooption mechanism, intended to administer patronage? Or is it a meaningful tool of the opposition? The creation of Kuwait’s National Assembly (KNA) in 1962 was a landmark decision that led to the establishment of a hybrid regime which combines a hereditary executive with an elected legislature. Despite the existence of several studies that examine the creation of and development of the national assembly overtime, very few systematically have examined its internal dynamics.

In this paper I will explore the internal dynamics of the KNA by examining the assembly’s roll call votes for the 13th legislative session. Such an examination will unveil the socioecoonmic and political dimensions along which members of the KNA cluster. These dimensions are crucial in as much as they reveal which issues the representatives privilege and whether the representatives’ priorities are influenced by these issues. Understanding the factors that influence the voting patterns of representatives in the KNA is crucial for determining whether they are motivated by ideological programs or issue-based constituent pressure.

The paper aims to contribute to the burgeoning literature on legislatures in authoritarian regimes by exploring how a legislature in an authoritarian, rentier state operates, and what purpose it serves. In other words, the balance between policy concessions and patronage distribution in the assembly will be tested using the roll call analysis. Moreover, the consequences of the internal dynamics and voting patterns of the assembly on economic development and political stability will be explored, in order to demonstrate how the peculiar characteristics of hybrid structures of Kuwait’s political system leads to terminal disequilibria - in contrast to most institutionalized authoritarian regimes.