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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03KUWAIT3556
2003-08-04 13:09:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

GOK CLAIMS INTENT TO EXPAND SUFFRAGE, WELCOMES

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  KDEM  KWMN  PINR  PHUM  KU 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L KUWAIT 003556 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, DRL/PHD
STATE FOR INR/NESA, INR/B

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/29/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM KWMN PINR PHUM KU
SUBJECT: GOK CLAIMS INTENT TO EXPAND SUFFRAGE, WELCOMES
TRAINING FOR JUDGES

Classified By: ADCM John G. Moran for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L KUWAIT 003556

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, DRL/PHD
STATE FOR INR/NESA, INR/B

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/29/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM KWMN PINR PHUM KU
SUBJECT: GOK CLAIMS INTENT TO EXPAND SUFFRAGE, WELCOMES
TRAINING FOR JUDGES

Classified By: ADCM John G. Moran for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)


1. (C) Summary: On July 26, the Ambassador met with the new
government's Minister of Justice, Ahmed Baquer Al-Abdullah,
who gave him a readout on some of the governments upcoming
plans. Among the specific items discussed were the GOK's
commitment to womens suffrage, the possible lowering of the
voting age from 21 to 18 and the possibility of USG-provided
training for Kuwaiti judges. End Summary.

EXPANDING THE VOTE


2. (C) During their July 26 meeting, the Ambassador and
Minister of Justice Ahmed Baquer Al-Abdullah discussed the
expansion of voting rights in Kuwait. Baquer said that while
the government was committed to resubmitting a proposal to
expand suffrage to women (Note: The last proposal was voted
down by the National Assembly in 1999. End Note.), he was
doubtful that the GOK would gain the necessary 32 votes for
passage from the new National Assembly. As if to prove the
point, Baquer then proceeded to read the names of every
National Assembly Member and their suspected and/or known
position on the issue, adding that the GOK would only be able
to secure 27 votes (Comment: Baquer, the only elected MP in
the new Cabinet, is a Salafi Islamist. He retains the
Justice portfolio he held in the last Cabinet, but no longer
holds the Awqaf and Islamic Affairs portfolio. End Comment.)


3. (C) Noting that there were other ways to expand the
electoral base, the Ambassador suggested that the GOK might
also consider dropping the voting age from 21 to 18 and
allowing the military and security personnel to vote. In the
case of women's suffrage, it should consider challenging the
election law as unconstitutional (Note: Kuwait's constitution
guarantees the equality of all citizens, although many of its
laws make distinctions between men and women. End note.).
Baquer replied that lowering the voting age had been
discussed since the 1970's, and there was a general societal
consensus that "18 is too young." With respect to the
military, he said Kuwait has a tradition of keeping the
military out of politics, and would likely not find such an
expansion acceptable. Finally, Baquer called GOK legal
action against the law "a big problem," because many of
Kuwait's laws differentiate between men and women. "Islamic
Sharia," which Kuwait's laws are partially based upon,
"always distinguishes between men and women," he said.


4. (C) The Ambassador pointed out that the Constitution
stated Sharia was "a basis," i.e not the only basis, for
Kuwaiti law. Elections and other laws not directly adapted
from Sharia should be changed to comply with the
Constitution. Baquer said this was one example of the
challenge facing the Islamic world. "The Islamic world needs
to choose between the East or West," he said. Completely
ignoring the issue of constitutionality, he added, "The West
doesn't distinguish between men and women at all." Later,
attempting to explain the fact that Kuwait is the last voting
country in the world that still has not extended the vote to
women, Baquer said Islamic scholars had opposed womens
suffrage in Muslim countries, but "it was imposed on them."

JUDGE TRAINING WELCOMED


5. (C) The Minister was much more open to the Ambassador's
offer of USG assistance in providing Kuwait's judges with
training on internationally accepted standards, especially
for the protection of intellectual prooerty rights. Baquer
called such training "a good idea" and said the issue should
be taken up again after the current 3-month judiciary holiday
is over.

COMMENT


6. (C) Before the election, Shaykh Sabah, who is now Prime
Minister, publicly pledged a fresh push on women's rights.
The clear opposition of his own Justice Minister shows what
an uphill struggle it will be.
JONES