Download the 2021 report: [English version] [Arabic version]
“The Political Participation Index in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries” is an annual overview and scientific monitoring of the degree of political, social and cultural participation in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries: Kingdom of Bahrain, Sultanate of Oman, State of Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
This index carries significance for being the first specialised research publication concerned with measuring the degree of “political participation” in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The uniqueness of the index is that it combines all conceptual contexts (academic, international agreements and covenants, knowledge and practical experiences), and the specifics, conditions of evolution and structure of governance systems in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
The index attempts to answer a major question pertaining to the extent and proportion of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries’ engagement of their citizens politically, and the consequent desire and ability of citizens themselves, individuals and groups, to participate in decision-making and influence the state’s policies, legislation, and in all aspects of political and social life in their states.
Results of the Second Edition (2021)
The State of Kuwait has maintained its first rank, with a score of 525 out of a total of 1,000 on the PPIGCC, followed by the Sultanate of Oman, which moved up to the second rank, with a score of 449.
With a slight difference, Qatar ranked third with a score of 447, while the Kingdom of Bahrain fell to fourth place with a score of 432. The United Arab Emirates ranked fifth with a score of 318, followed by Saudi Arabia in the last place with a score of 227.
While Qatar moved up by (42 points), Saudi Arabia (35 points), Oman (9 points) and the UAE (2 points), Bahrain and Kuwait moved down by (19 points) and (10 points) respectively.
While Kuwait – alone – exceeded the 500-point barrier, the rest of the countries are still below that. This indicates an urgent need in all GCC countries to expand frameworks for political participation and decision-making, especially with regard to strengthening and expanding the powers of elected councils, improving electoral laws, promoting equal citizenship, guaranteeing freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the safety of individuals engaged in political activity.
All GCC countries have recorded disappointing results in allowing the formation of political organisations and ensuring the right to political action and the safety of practitioners. With the exception of Kuwait, it is noted that the rest of the GCC countries are witnessing a noticeable decline in the laws governing general elections and the governance and effectiveness of the elected councils and their powers.
It is worth noting that Bahrain has seen steady regression in parliamentary experience and freedom of political action. Meanwhile, observers are awaiting how the new parliamentary experience in Qatar will unfold.
It has been noted that some Gulf countries (namely UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain) have adopted discriminatory and unfair policies with regard to ensuring the right of their citizens to political participation in the elections of legislative councils, Shura councils, and municipal councils. These policies are based on restrictions and controls defined by nationality laws, exercise of political rights, and regulations of elections in these countries. This makes the issue of equal citizenship a very important issue.
While access to senior positions, leadership and sensitive positions in Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait appears to be monopolized – or almost – by members of the ruling families, both Qatar and Oman are characterised by high access for citizens to these positions (sovereign ministries in the councils of ministers, military and judicial institutions). It is noted in this context that the ruling families and specific families or groups dominate the high positions in the state, which results in the presence of marginalised minorities or groups not represented in proportion to their numbers in society.
The results in all countries remained modest in the areas of freedom of opinion and expression, with a relative preference in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, as the majority of the GCC countries witness judicial trials and arbitrary arrests of dozens of citizens on charges related to freedom of opinion and expression related to the policies of these countries and the laws in force.
While access to senior positions, leadership and sensitive positions in Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait appears to be monopolized – or almost – by members of the ruling families, both Qatar and Oman are characterised by high access for citizens to these positions (sovereign ministries in the councils of ministers, military and judicial institutions).
With the exception of Oman, and relatively Qatar and the UAE, the rest of the GCC countries lack laws criminalising discrimination and policies combating racist and hate speech directed against some sections of the society and expatriates in these countries.
With regard to gender equality and youth empowerment, the policies of all GCC countries – with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – are moving towards achieving better outcomes.
State of Kuwait brief results
Despite the decline in the results for Kuwait by 10 points, it has maintained the first rank with a score of 525 points, exceeding the 500-point mark out of the total index scores (1,000 points). The decline on the scale of (Freedom of Opinion and Expression) recorded a 7-point drop, and a 3-point drop on the scale (Representation of Groups and Minorities).
Kuwait ranked first on 4 scales: (Constitutional Life / General Elections / Transparency / Freedom of Opinion and Expression) out of the ten scales. Despite this, low scores were recorded on the scales of (Political Organisations / Foreign Communities) with significant challenges emerging with regard to legislation for the work of political parties, resolution of the Bidoon (stateless) issue, discrimination among citizens with regard to political participation in the elections, as well as discrimination against foreign communities in the country.
Sultanate of Oman brief results
With a score of 449, Oman moved from third to second place. The Sultanate topped the scale of (Representation of Groups and Minorities) based on government policies that guarantee equality between citizens and proportional representation of the various sections of society.
The Sultanate has also maintained a remarkable distinction (second place) on the scale of (Access to Leadership and Sensitive Positions), as the State guarantees high access for Omanis from outside the ruling family to senior positions, as well as good performance on the scale of (Foreign Communities). The Sultanate improved its previous (zero) score on the scale (Political Organizations) by 4 points (out of a total of 100 points) due to improvement of the legal environment for the safety of those engaged in political work, while forming or joining political parties remains prohibited.
The Sultanate recorded a drop on the scales of (General Elections / Freedom of Opinion and Expression).
State of Qatar brief results
Qatar has achieved the highest progress among the countries monitored by this index, moving up by 42 points, to rise from fourth to third place, with a score of 447, two points ahead of the Sultanate of Oman. This improvement comes with the announcement of the Shura Council elections after 17 years of suspension, and the adoption of reforms in the labour market that include abolishing the sponsorship system and setting a minimum wage.
Qatar has maintained its lead on the scale of (Access to Leadership and Sensitive Positions) with the presence of only two figures from the ruling family in the Council of Ministers (the Prime Minister – who also occupies the position of Minister of Interior, and Minister of Foreign Affairs). The State has also made progress on the scales of (Constitutional Life), (General Elections) and (Foreign Communities). The State has regressed on the scales of (Political Organisations) and (Freedom of Opinion and Expression) due to the approval of a provision in the Shura Council Elections Law and the Nationality Law prohibiting Qataris who were not present in the country before 1930 from the right to run in the Shura Council elections. This was accompanied by documented arrests of a number of participants in the protest gatherings.
The State; however, has noticeably failed on the scales related to (general elections / political organisations) by not implementing the articles relating to the Legislative Council in the Constitution, as two-thirds of the members of the Shura Council are supposed to be elected and that its powers should be wider than it is now.
Kingdom of Bahrain brief results
Bahrain has declined by 19 points dropping from second to fourth place with a score of 432, recording the biggest decline among the countries monitored by the index this year.
Bahrain has declined by 3 points on the scale of (Constitutional Life) and 16 points on the scale of (General Elections) against the backdrop of the promulgation of a Decree-by-Law to amend the internal by-laws of the Council of Representatives in a way that curtails the powers of representatives by prohibiting any discussion which includes criticism, blame, or accusation against the government.
Bahrain moved up 3 points on the scale of (Gender Balance and Youth involvement) due to new government appointments of the youth in senior positions, including administrative bodies and departments attached to the Cabinet. Bahrain topped 3 scales (Political Organisations / Civil Society Institutions / Foreign Communities), achieving a distinguished performance with regard to local laws and regulations to regulate the work of civil society institutions and trade unions, as well as in ensuring stable and effective residency for foreign communities, as well as ensuring their union representation. Bahrain scored low on the scale of (Freedom of Opinion and Expression). The country has continued to lag behind on the two scales of (Representation of Groups and Minorities) and (Access to Leadership and Sensitive Positions), recording the highest percentage of various senior state positions held by members of the ruling family.
The United Arab Emirates brief results
With a 2-point rise compared with last year’s results, the UAE has maintained its fifth rank with a score of 318. The country has maintained its position at the top on the scale of (Gender Balance and Youth Engagement) due to the special policies and procedures adopted to ensure balanced representation of Emirati women and youth in various state institutions, as well as on the (Foreign communities) scale, where it ranked equally with Qatar in the second place.The UAE, which ranked fifth, came first on the scale related to (gender balance and youth engagement) due to the special policies and measures followed to ensure Emirati women and the youth group are represented in various State institutions in a significant way. The UAE has also achieved a high rank (third place) on the scale related to (foreign communities) and a balanced rank on the (representation of groups and minorities) scale, taking a unique step ahead of all countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council by enacting a law “criminalizing discrimination and hatred”.
The UAE has also recorded a slight progress on the scales of (Civil Society Institutions) and (Freedom of Opinion and Expression) and a balanced rank on the scale of (Representation of Groups and Minorities), taking a step unique to all countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council by enacting the law on “criminalizing discrimination and hatred”. On the other hand, the country has remained with a score of (zero) on the scale of (Political Organisations), lagging on the scale of (General Elections) and was below the rest of the GCC countries on the of the (Transparency) scale.However, the UAE scored a “zero” on the (political organizations) scale and low points on the (general elections / civil society institutions / freedom of opinion and expression) scales.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia brief results
Despite achieving remarkable progress in obtaining 35 points more compared with the results of the previous year, Saudi Arabia has remained at the bottom of the ranking, with a score of 227. New policies related to residency regulations, women’s empowerment, the adoption of the open-access to information system, release of some journalists and activists during this year, and expansion of the introduction and regulation of municipal council and civil society institutions contributed to this.Saudi Arabia, which ranked last among the six GCC countries, recorded a noticeable decline on several scales, the most important of which is the scale of (political organizations), on which it scored “zero”. It also had low points on the scales related to (constitutional life / general elections / transparency / freedom of opinion and expression), with very complex problems on various of these scales, especially with regard to public freedoms, and freedom of opinion and expression.
Saudi Arabia advanced on 6 scales: (General Elections), (Civil Society Institutions), (Gender Balance and Youth Engagement), (Transparency), (Freedom of Opinion and Expression) and (Foreign Communities). Despite that, it has continued to lag behind on most of them.
The country has remained with a (zero) point on the scale of (Political Organisations) and recorded low scores on the scales of (Constitutional Life) and (Transparency), and it has continued to rank medium on the scale of (Access to Leadership and Sensitive Positions), on which it ranked fourth.
Despite this, Saudi Arabia achieved an average ranking on the (access to leadership and sensitive positions) scale, ranking fourth on this scale. The country has witnessed a significant improvement on the (gender balance and youth involvement) scale of in recent years.
The Gulf House for Studies and Publishing would like to thank all researchers who contributed to this research, focused workshops, index research and design, and the review and auditing processes. We also thank the sponsor and supporter, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – the United States.