The Iraqi army has been driven from Kuwait, but my people have not yet been fully liberated.
The "legitimate" government of Kuwait, which the war was fought to restore, is not the government of absolute power of the al Sabah family. It is the constitutional government first established in 1962 but dissolved by Emir Jaber al-Ahmed al Sabah on July 12, 1986.Martial law may be necessary for the next few months to re-establish order in Kuwait, but that decision ought to be made by a national unity government, not the discredited al Sabah family.
Despite Crown Prince Sheik Saad al-Abdullah al Sabah's promise to the opposition at an October meeting in Jiddah that democratic reforms would be pursued after the war, martial law may well be used to crack down on the resistance movement, to suppress liberties and to lay the groundwork for a dummy parliament - in other words, as a backdoor means to perpetuate monarchic rule.We shouldn't forget that the National Assembly, or parliament, was dissolved and the constitution voided in 1986 under the pretext of the threat posed by the Iran-Iraq war. But when that war was over in 1988, the al Sabah family continued to rule unconstitutionally until the Iraqi invasion last August.
Throughout 1989 and 1990, there were large demonstrations in Kuwait City demanding restoration of constitutional rule, which led to a violent government crackdown and arrests of opposition figures that included myself.
Given this history, stability can only be restored and reconstruction initiated if the al Sabah family is joined by the Kuwaiti resistance and the democratic movement. To attempt to exclude these forces from power is to choose a path toward even more social turmoil, and possibly civil war.
It would be especially unconscionable to exclude those who stayed in Kuwait during the last several months. In the face of torture and execution, the whole organized society of Kuwait - from the mosques to students, professional associations and trade unions to the actual military resistance - literally ran Kuwait from the underground during the Iraqi occupation.
Why shouldn't their participation be continued now that the tribal lords have returned from their luxury hotels in Taif? Having been thrust into the foreground by the Iraqi invasion, it would be a mistake to offer the resistance only a back seat now.
Once stability is restored, our program is aimed at returning Kuwait's government to constitutional legitimacy, which mandates direct election for the National Assembly under terms of the 1962 constitution.
Article 6 of that constitution says that the political system of Kuwait is democratic, with free, one person-one vote elections for a 50-member parliament. It also guarantees freedom of speech, which is why Kuwait has often had the freest newspapers in the Arab world.
It says that sovereignty resides in the people, and the people are the source of all power - including the appointment of the emir. Under constitutional rule, the emir must come from the al Sabah family. After he is named, the emir proposes candidates from the al Sabah family to be named crown prince - his successor. The parliament could reject all of them. No crown prince could be appointed without approval of the parliament.
The constitution also establishes three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial. The executive branch is run by an emir, who delegates power to a prime minister whose government is accountable to the parliament. All the emir's powers must be approved by parliament.
There is one article, originally written to last for a five-year period after 1962 as a guarantee of stability during the transition to democracy, which we would amend now. That article allows the government's 15 appointed cabinet members to sit as full members of the parliament, automatically assuring that the ruling family controls more than one-quarter of the 50-member legislative branch. After this war, we are more than ready for full democracy in Kuwait, including a multiparty political system and alternation of power. It is time for all members of parliament to be directly elected by the Kuwaiti people.
In the end, we hope to develop a system similar to the British one, which democratically circumscribes the role of the royal family in British affairs.
As with any form of undemocratic rule - be it autocracy, monarchy or dictatorship - abuse and corruption ultimately undermine the credible authority of the rulers. This has now happened with respect to the ruling family and their government.
Their weakness and corruption, which resulted from their aversion to democratic accountability, contributed greatly to our tragic vulnerability in this war. Those in charge of defense were totally unprepared for the Iraqi invasion. Some of our top commanders, incredibly, were vacationing in Europe as Saddam massed his troops at the border.
The people of my small country realize that driving the Iraqis from Kuwait was, in the eyes of the allies, an act in defense of the rule of international law and the "new world order," despite the fact that we were subject to absolutist rule. But the democratic world will not show the same commitment to rebuilding Kuwait if our country does not move toward democratic reform.
Modern democracies did not make all their sacrifices just to restore one individual to his throne. With so many of their own obligations, why should democratic nations risk lives and spend precious resources propping up an "old world order"?
This coalition, composed of 30 former members of the Kuwaiti parliament, plus trade union and student representatives, supports the return of constitutional rule - which the emir suspended in 1986. Ahmed Nafisi was jailed briefly in 1990 for protesting the absence of constitutional government. He currently is editor-in-chief of the Kuwaiti opposition magazine El Taliyah. Nafisi fled Kuwait two weeks after the Iraqi invasion and is living in Cairo. He expects to return to Kuwait shortly.
1991, New Perspectives Quarterly
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