Kuwait celebrates this year the 57th anniversary of ratification of the constitution, which regulates relationship between the ruler and citizens, protects freedom, and achieves justice and equality. It was Monday, November 11, 1962, when late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the 11th ruler of Kuwait, fondly known as the “father of the Constitution,” approved the constitution.
Kuwait’s constitution is the first of its kind in the Arabian Gulf region. It contributed to a qualitative leap towards building a modern state based on constitutional institutions and a system founded on principles of rights and duties. The Constitution is an expression of the will of the ruler and the citizen to live within framework of an active constitutional democracy and build the state of law.
It is also a document determining the system of the state, regulates relationship between the executive, legislative and judicial authorities. Prior of the issuance of the Constitution, Kuwaitis elected the Constituent Assembly in January 1962 to draft the first constitution of the nation. The Assembly formed a five-member committee to oversee the wording of the draft that defines the entity of the State of Kuwait, regulate relations among authorities and freedoms.
The final document was presented to Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem delivered a speech at the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly in which he said: “In the name of Allah … We start the sessions of the Constituent Assembly which is entrusted with laying the foundations of the future ruling system.” Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem called for unity so as to best serve the interests of the country and its people.
He ended his speech by asking Allah the Almighty to guide them. Abdullatif Thunayyan Al-Ghanim was elected as a Chairman of the Assembly and Dr. Ahmad Al-Khateeb as Vice-Chairman. The five-members committee consisted of Al-Ghanim, then Interior Minister Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah AlSalem Al-Sabah, Justice Minister Hamoud Zaid Al-Khaled, Constituent Assembly member and Committee’s Secretary Yaqoob Yusuf Al-Humaidhi, and Assembly member late Saud Abdulaziz Al-Abdulrazzaq. Assembly’s Secretary General Ali Mohammad Al-Radhwan handled secretariat of the Committee. Meetings of the Committee were attended by legal expert Mohsen Abdulhafedh and constitutional law specialist Dr. Othman Khalil Othman.
The participation of Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem was politically significant because he represented the ruling family, a prelude since Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem presided over the Legislative Council in 1938. The Constitutional committee, which held 23 sessions, met for the first time on Saturday, March 17, 1962, and the last was on October 27, 1962. Then the committee tabled the draft constitution to the Assembly for discussion. The Constituent Assembly began deliberating the draft Constitution on August 12, 1962. In its meeting held on October 30, the articles of the draft were read and the constitution was adopted unanimously in a session held on November 3, 1962.
The Chairman of the Constituent Assembly presented the new constitution to the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem at Sief Palace on November 8, 1962. “It is a great honor for my colleagues, members of the Constitution Committee; and myself to present to Your Highness on this historic day, and on behalf of the Constituent Assembly, a draft of the constitution, based on your decision to form the basis of democratic principles …,” Al-Ghanim said in his speech. The late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem ratified the constitution three days after submission and published in the official gazette the day after it approval. Only 72 days after the constitution was approved, the first parliamentary elections were held in Kuwait on January 23, 1963, which officially marked the start of political practice under the new constitution.
It was the gateway of the constitutional beginning of the three main authorities: legislative, executive and judicial. Kuwait’s Constitution consists of 183 articles distributed to five chapters; the first is about the State and the System of Government. Second is about fundamentals of the Kuwaiti Society. Third is dedicated to public rights and duties, and fourth is about authorities and the fifth is about general and transitional provisions. On February 10, 1980, the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah formed a committee that consisted of 35 members to revise and amend the Constitution.
The late Father Amir Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah attended the Constitutional Revision Committee which held its first meeting on February 19, 1980. He called on members to preserve the constitution and safeguard its basic principles, stressing the responsibility of the Committee to serve the people of Kuwait and achieve their security, prosperity and stability. The Constitutional Revision Committee met for 18 weeks and discussed many views. Meetings ended on June 22, 1980. During the 1990-91 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the citizens showed genuine unity vis-a-vis the constitution. A popular conference was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in October 1990, where Kuwaiti leaders and people announced full commitment to the constitution.
The late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, addressing the conference, said “Kuwaitis have long lived in an atmosphere of freedom, adhered to shura (consultations) and exercised democracy within the framework of our constitution.” Abdulaziz Al-Saqer confirmed at the conference that Kuwait’s constitution was based on experiences of other countries which has thus strengthened its genuine Kuwaiti identity. After the liberation of Kuwait, the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad addressed the nation in the last 10 days of Ramadhan, corresponding April 7, 1991. He said: “consultation about, and popular participation in, affairs of the country was the nature of life in our country, but the restoration of parliamentary life is what we agreed to at the Popular Conference in Jeddah.
“In keeping with this promise, we have decided that after the situation stabilizes, restoration of normal life and reuniting of the people of Kuwait with their families, parliamentary elections will be held next year as stipulated in our constitution.” Since the ratification of the constitution 57 years ago, Kuwaiti National Assembly held 15 legislative terms and 34 governments formed. Kuwait, as it celebrates the anniversary of its constitution, recalls an honorable history of democratic achievements and promotion of human rights under leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah AlAhmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.