With its heavy reliance on oil revenues to sustain its public finances, Kuwait resembles an archetypal rentier state. But unlike other oil-rich Gulf states, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait boasts a vibrant elected National Assembly that fitfully exercises some influence over the country’s monarchy. Herb concludes that the roots of this difference lie in Iraq’s irredentist claim to Kuwait in 1961 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. To shore up its regional and international legitimacy in the face of these threats to its sovereignty, Kuwait fashioned a credible electoral democracy. But no matter how expedient its creation, Kuwait’s National Assembly has become a real force, representing the interests of the publicly employed middle class. The ruling Sabah dynasty is not likely to throttle it, even though it might be tempted to do so.
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