Local Government History
Kuwait’s Municipal Council was established in 1932. Over the past seventy years, the national government has assumed some functions previously controlled by Kuwait’s municipality, but the Council still retains several important responsibilities.
In addition to the Kuwait municipality, Kuwait has five governorates: Al Ahmadi, Al Farwaniyah, Al 'Asimah, Al Jahra', and Hawalli, but they exist largely as administrative units for the central government.
Municipal and Local Government Budgets
The local government provides a wide variety of public services including roads, urban planning, sanitation, garbage, food inspection, and licensing. The Municipal Council has recently focused on housing, environmental issues, streamlining and coordinating its bureaucracy, and simplifying licensing procedures. The Council is composed of sixteen members: ten who are elected and six who are appointed by the Emir. The Council includes five subcommittees that divide up administrative responsibilities.
Reform: Fiscal Decentralization
The nation of Kuwait stands out among the Gulf States for its elected municipal authorities that control the administration of a number of public services. Fiscally, however, the government remains highly centralized with an inefficient bureaucracy. Kuwait also has five governorates, but they exist largely as administrative units for the central government. Due to the small size of Kuwait, decentralization is not a pressing issue, nor a policy directive.
The latest municipal elections in Kuwait were held in June 2009. The elections were contested by 71 candidates in 10 electoral districts for 10 seats of the Municipal Council, while the remaining 6 members are appointed by the Emir of Kuwait. According to statistics published by the Elections Committee, 71,402 men and women voters casted their votes out of a total of 374,000 eligible voters. The voter turnout was 20%. The low participation rate was attributed to a number of factors, including: holding the elections on an official work-day, the beginning of the summer season and travel abroad of many citizens, a lack of enthusiasm for local elections following the parliamentary elections that created high interest among citizens and exhausted their energy. The voter turnout in the 10 districts was as follows: 25% in the first district, 23% in the second, 21% in the third, 14% in the fourth, 22% in the fifth, 23% in the sixth, and 14% in the seventh district. The highest participation rate was in the eighth district reaching 28%, whereas it was 20% in the ninth and 16% in the tenth district.
Previous municipal elections in Kuwait took place on June 2, 2005. Fifty-four candidates competed over 10 municipal seats in 10 electoral districts. The remaining 6 municipal members are appointed by the Emir of Kuwait. Around 140 thousand male citizens were eligible to participate in these elections. The term of the municipal council is 4 years. Candidates must be at least 30 years old, must read and write Arabic and have no criminal record. Participation rate was rather low, not exceeding 50% of eligible voters. Tribal candidates won 6 seats, Islamists and "urban" candidates each won 2 seats. For the first time in Kuwait's history, the government appointed in June 2005 two women to the municipal council.
In the previous municipal elections, held in June 1999, the government calculated turnout at 62%, which was higher than in previous elections.