Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with the Amir as Head of State. The Amir of Kuwait is chosen from the Al Sabah family, which dates back to the mid 18th century. The current Amir of Kuwait is H. H. Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah.
Key government positions and current office holders:
The constitution dictates the law for the State and determines the basis of society, government and it organizes, as well as the rights and obligations of citizens. Kuwait's constitution contains 183 articles and an explanatory memorandum. These articles are divided into five chapters, as follows:
Executive authority lies solely in the hands of the Amir. The Prime Minister appoints the cabinet and the Amir approves all appointees to the Cabinet. The constitution limits the size of the Cabinet to just 16 members, of which one member must be an elected member of Parliament. All cabinet ministers become deputies (members of Parliament), effectively giving the Prime Minister 15 unelected members within the Kuwaiti Parliament.
Kuwait's National Assembly, also known as Parliament, is the legislature of The State of Kuwait, and is a fifty member body. All members of Parliament are directly elected by the people though secret ballot at general elections. The country is divided into five voting districts, with the top 10 candidates from each district, earning a seat in Parliament.
The constitution stipulates that elections must be held every four years or sooner if Parliament is dissolved by the Amir. The dissolution of Parliament has occurred on five separate occasions, 1976, 1986, 1999, and 2006 and most recently in 2011. Members of Parliament consist of both male and female members. Currently there are three female members of Parliament and two females in the Cabinet. On May 16, 2005, Parliament passed a law giving women the right to vote and run for political office. Voting age in Kuwait is 21.
Political parties in Kuwait are banned. Instead, voting blocs are formed among members. The most popular voting blocs, are:
Shari'a (Islamic law) is the main basis of legislations in Kuwait. The legal system of Kuwait is a mixture of British common law, French civil law, Islamic legal principles, and Egyptian law. The Kuwaiti court system has four levels:
The court of First Instance - These Courts handle civil, commercial, personal status and penal matters. Courts of First Instance are the very first courts one deals with concerning legal matters.
The Court of Appeal - The Courts of Appeal, which sit in panels of three judges, serve as both as intermediate and final courts of appeal.
The Court of Causation - The Court of Cassation, added in 1990, sits at the head of the Kuwaiti judiciary and functions as the final court of appeal. Divided into Commercial, Civil, and Criminal Boards, the Court's judgements are not legally binding on lower courts, but are normally respected.
The Constitutional Court - Interprets the constitution and deals with disputes related to the constitutionality of laws.
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