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Defining the "tribal advantage" in Kuwaiti politics

Freer, Courtney and Leber, Andrew (2022) Defining the "tribal advantage" in Kuwaiti politics. Middle East Law and Governance, 14 (2). 205 - 234. ISSN 1876-3367

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Identification Number: 10.1163/18763375-13031309


Contemporary electoral discourses in Kuwait stress a "tribal advantage"that boosts the representation of tribe-affiliated Kuwaitis in the National Assembly and undermines the character of Kuwaiti democracy. We draw on survey data, elite interviews, and election returns to assess the validity of these claims. Kuwaiti responses in a survey of political attitudes cast doubt on the hypothesis that members of tribes are likelier to view voting as a quid-pro-quo exchange for government services. Election returns suggest a slight over-representation of tribe-affiliated Kuwaitis writ large, but as a result of the interaction of larger post-2006 electoral districts with tribal electoral coordination rather than as a result of government design. Additionally, electoral returns offer evidence of growing tribal coordination intended to ensure representation within the National Assembly, albeit one disrupted by changes in electoral laws. We conclude by highlighting the possibility of electoral appeals that build on, rather than restrict themselves to, ascriptive identities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden
Divisions: Middle East Centre
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2022 14:42
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 05:58

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