Members of the Opposition Coalition take part in a press conference about the "national political reform programme" that was launched by the coalition on April 12, 2014 in Kuwait city. Image Credit: AFP

Kuwait City: Kuwait’s opposition called Saturday for broad democratic reforms including a Western-style party system to limit the powers of the country’s ruling family.

The call came in a “national political reform programme,” launched by the Opposition Coalition in the state where political parties are banned.

The coalition groups almost all opposition political groups, including Islamists, liberals and nationalists as well as trade and student unions, youth activists and civil society groups.

The programme proposes fundamental political, constitutional and legislative reforms to achieve a multi-party system and prevent members of the Al Sabah family, in power for over 250 years, from leading the government.

All governments since 1962, when Kuwait’s constitution was issued, have been led by a senior figure from the Al Sabah family, whose members have also always occupied the key ministries of interior, defence and foreign affairs.

The reforms call for amending 36 provisions of the 183-article constitution to restrict the wide powers held by the emir through a unique combination of presidential and parliamentary systems.

“We want to end the faulty confusion between the presidential and parliamentary systems,” said the reform document released by Opposition Coalition coordinator and former MP Mussallam Al Barrak at a press conference.

The programme requires the emir to invite the winning party leader of an election to form the cabinet, limiting his prerogatives under the current system and rationaling his right to dissolve parliament.

The programme also calls for the legalisation of political parties and for massive legislative reforms by amending and introducing 20 key laws focused on corruption, accountability and public freedoms.

“This is a national salvation programme to salvage whatever remains of Kuwait ... The ruling family can no longer lead the government,” said Sa’ad Al Ajmi, an official of the nationalist Popular Action Movement.

Al Barrak stressed the opposition would seek peaceful methods to promote its reform programme. including through rallies and gatherings.

The opposition held massive street protests in 2011 and 2012 but the size and intensity of its gatherings have drastically waned.

Opec member Kuwait, which produces around three million barrels of oil per day, has been rocked by political disputes since mid-2006, with a dozen governments formed and parliament dissolved six times.

But the oil-rich country, which has amassed over $400 billion in assets, has seen relative calm since July parliamentary polls boycotted by the opposition.