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Limits of political clientelism: elites’ struggles in Kuwait fragmenting politics

Abstract : Based upon fieldwork carried out between 2012 and 2014, this article sheds light on the dynamics of socio-political change unfolding in Kuwait since the turn of the 2000s and which has led to the erosion of the old social pact. It shows how elite rivalry has taken a new turn, breaking with succession customs and with increasing power struggles between princes of the second generation of the Al Sabah royal family, vying to use the constitutionally-enshrined succession rules to their advantage. Focusing on the rivalry between former PM Nasser al-Muhammad and the powerful Ahmad al-Fahd that was played out in the open, the article analyses their strategies of co-opting contending actors in parliament and society in order to build alliances mixing sectarian and identity politics with clientelist logic. Played against the background of another fundamental trend in Kuwait, i.e. the rise of a younger generation of citizens –especially among the Bedouins- in search of new modes of politics and better access to state resources, these patronage techniques and the use of political money are proving less and less effective as scandals affect the royals’ aura of respectability. The paper concludes that, together, the two phenomena of elite-rivarly on one side and the rise of dissatisfied youth on the other have contributed to the blurring of the usual sociological categories of Kuwaiti society (Urbanites/Bedouins/Shiites) and the fragmentation of Kuwaiti politics.
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Submitted on : Saturday, February 12, 2022 - 11:30:08 AM
Last modification on : Monday, February 14, 2022 - 10:24:02 AM

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Rivka Azoulay, Claire Beaugrand. Limits of political clientelism: elites’ struggles in Kuwait fragmenting politics. Arabian Humanities, 2015, 4, ⟨10.4000/cy.2827⟩. ⟨hal-03568215⟩

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