KUWAIT: Prof M D Nalapat, who arrived in Kuwait as an election observer from India, is Director, Geopolitical & International Relations, Manipal University. In a brief interview with Friday Times, Prof Nalapat, expresses his views on Kuwait parliamentary election to be held tomorrow and hopes that it will pave the way for a wave of economic reforms ushering in positive changes to the country. Prof Nalapat is also UNESCO Peace Chair and a renowned academician. The former Coordinating Editor of the Times of India, Prof Nalapat writes extensively on security matters and international affairs and is a columnist for the Sunday Guardian and the Pakistan Observer. Excerpts:
Question: You were here in February to observe a parliamentary election and now in November, once again there is an election. To what do you attribute such a situation? Answer: I have been an observer of Kuwait for more than fifteen years, and it was clear during the functioning of the parliament (after the 2012) elections that a deadlock had been created. More than thirty legislators opposed whatever the government proposed, and as a consequence, several projects were delayed. Many ministers became reluctant to implement big projects because of worry that they would get grilled by the post-2012 legislative majority. The people of Kuwait want faster economic growth. They want more jobs and higher incomes. This can only come if projects get implemented speedily rather than get delayed because of political deadlock.
Q: How do you expect that an election will remove such a deadlock? A: Because of the strategic mistake made by those who secured a majority during the February 2012 elections, of boycotting the November elections. In a democracy-and Kuwait certainly qualifies as a democracy – boycotting an election is a wrong tactic. In India, in 1939, the Congress Party withdrew from governance and resigned its electoral posts. As a consequence, the Muslim League gained in influence and finally, the partition of India (through the creation of Pakistan) was the result. A democrat should not be afraid of elections, she or he should contest them. Those (in the previous legislature) who are refusing to contest the elections due on December 1 are ensuring the victory of those who have a view different from theirs. In my view, the new parliament will be much more supportive of development projects rather than block projects in order to grill ministers all the time.
Q: In view of the boycott call by some politicians, do you expect a low turnout this time? A: In my view, the level of participation will be the same (as during February 2012). This is because the people of Kuwait appreciate the fact that they have a right to vote, a right that is not given to citizens of some other countries in the region. Certainly democracy in Kuwait is not perfect, and more reform is needed. However, it is a fact that Kuwait is far and away the most democratic country in the region, and Kuwaitis know this and appreciate this. They take democracy seriously, they take the right to vote seriously and hence will come out to vote on December 1 in large numbers.
Q: Why do you feel Kuwait will make faster progress after this election? A: Kuwait needs to go into a big wave of economic reform, such as privatizing huge state monopolies such as Kuwait Airways, which would function much better under private management. Of course, such privatization should be conducted in a transparent way without favorites, so that the best buyer gets the prize. The new parliament knows that the Kuwaiti public is very interested in ensuring clean government, so I am sure that the elected parliamentarians, while allowing growth to take place through economic reforms, will ensure that the process is fair and transparent. Kuwait has huge financial resources. Rather than rot in banks in Europe that could go bust at any time, these reserves should be used to create a better life, a better future, for the Kuwaiti people. I have every confidence that this will be done.
What political reforms do you feel Kuwait needs? A : The people of Kuwait are wise and the ruling Al-Sabah family is modern. I am sure that the ruling family and the Kuwaiti people will mutually come up with necessary reforms, in an atmosphere free from rancor and abuse.