Kuwait’s May 2008 elections dealt a setback to the local affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Constitutional Movement (HADAS) rewarding more rigid salafi Islamists and tribal candidates. The outcome was puzzling because a major electoral reform—heavily backed by HADAS—was supposed to reward well-organized ideological parties of which HADAS is Kuwait’s leading example. HADAS’s setback can be explained in part by tactical miscalculations as well as a strategy by party leaders to lessen its oppositional and confrontational approach.
HADAS can probably recover in the next elections, but its long term project of realizing its goals through political reform has been dealt a serious blow. The new parliament is likely to be less cohesive but more confrontational than the outgoing one. The result will be a deepening political deadlock between the government and the parliament in the Gulf’s most democratic political order.