In June 1961, following independence and under the shadow of
an Iraqi threat, Amir Abd Allah as Salim announced that he would
establish a constitution for Kuwait. In December, elections were
held for a Constituent Assembly, which then drafted a constitution
promulgated as Law Number 1 on November 11, 1962. Although articles
of the constitution have since been suspended twice, the document
nonetheless remains the basic statement of intent for the Kuwaiti
The constitution opens with the declaration that Kuwait is "an
independent sovereign Arab State," and its people are "a part
of the Arab Nation." Islam is "the religion of the state," and
the sharia (Islamic law) is "a main source of legislation." The
latter phrase has been the source of much debate, with Islamist
opposition members pressing to have Islam made "the" source of
The constitution defines Kuwait as "a hereditary Amirate, the
succession to which shall be in the descendants of the late Mubarak
Al Sabah." This clause codifies what has become practice: the
semiformal alternation of power since 1915 between the lines of
Mubarak's two ruling sons: Jabir and Salim.
Although granting the amir substantial power, the constitution
also provides for political participation by the citizens. The
system of government is defined in Article 6 as "democratic, under
which sovereignty resides in the people, the source of all powers."
Articles 79 to 122 establish the National Assembly and lay out
the rules governing its formation, rights, and duties.
Individual rights protected by the constitution are extensive
and include personal liberty and equality before the law, freedom
to hold beliefs and express opinions, and freedom of the press.
The residences of citizens are inviolable, the torture and the
deportation of Kuwaiti citizens are prohibited, and the accused
are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Also guaranteed is the
freedom to form associations and trade unions. The constitution
guarantees the independence of the judiciary and designates the
Supreme Council of the Judiciary as its highest body and guarantor
of judicial independence.
The constitution also grants citizens a number of social rights,
which form the basis for Kuwait's extensive welfare system. The
state is constitutionally obligated to care for the young and
to aid the old, the ill, and the disabled. It is obliged to provide
public education and to attend to public health. The constitution
provides for state involvement in the national economy to the
degree that these obligations necessitate. However, Articles 16
through 19 protect private property, stating that "private property
is inviolable" and reminding citizens that "inheritance is a right
governed by the Islamic Sharia." Article 20 stipulates that "the
national economy shall be based on social justice. It is founded
on fair cooperation between public and private activities. Its
aim shall be economic development, increase of productivity, improvement
of the standard of living and achievement of prosperity for citizens,
all within the limits of the law." Duties of citizens include
national defense, observance of public order and respect for public
morals, andpayment of taxes. These rights and obligations, however,
apply only to Kuwaiti citizens. The remainder of the population
have few political and civil rights and enjoy restricted access
to the benefits of the state welfare system.
In August 1976, in reaction to heightened assembly opposition
to his policies, the amir suspended four articles of the constitution
concerned with political and civil rights (freedom of the press
and dissolution of the legislature) and the assembly itself. In
1980, however, the suspended articles of the constitution were
reinstated along with the National Assembly. In 1982 the government
submitted sixteen constitutional amendments that, among other
things, would have allowed the amir to declare martial law for
an extended period and would have increased both the size of the
legislature and the length of terms of office. In May 1983, the
proposals were formally dropped after several months of debate.
Nonetheless, the issue of constitutional revisions continued as
a topic of discussion in both the National Assembly and the palace.
In 1986 the constitution was again suspended, along with the National
Assembly. As with the previous suspension, popular opposition
to this move emerged; indeed, the prodemocracy movement of 1989-90
took its name, the Constitutional Movement, from the demand for
a return to constitutional life. This opposition became more pronounced
following the Iraqi occupation, which abrogated all constitutional
rights, and following Kuwait's return to sovereignty in 1991.
In early 1992, many press restrictions were lifted. After the
October 1992 election, the National Assembly exercised its constitutional
right to review all amiri decrees promulgated while the assembly
was in dissolution.
Data as of January 1993