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Results of the First Edition (2020)

The State of Kuwait ranked first with 535 out of 1000 points on the “Political Participation Index in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries”, followed by the Kingdom of Bahrain in second place with 451 points. The Sultanate of Oman ranked third with 440 points, while the State of Qatar ranked fourth, scoring 405 points, then the United Arab Emirates, which ranked fifth with 316 points, followed by Saudi Arabia in last place with 192 points.

With the exception of Kuwait and Bahrain, all Gulf Cooperation Council states recorded a significant decrease on the scales of (constitutional life / general elections / political organizations).

It has been observed that certain Gulf countries (UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain) adopt discriminatory policies with regard to ensuring the right of their citizens to political participation in legislative council elections, Shura councils and municipal councils. These policies are based on controls and prohibitions determined by their respective nationality laws, the exercise of political rights and the organization of elections in these countries.

While Bahrain, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait recorded a decline in the points on the scale related to (access to leadership and sensitive positions) due to the large presence of members of the ruling families in higher positions, both Qatar and Oman were characterized by high permeability for citizens of the two countries to reach higher positions (sovereign ministries in the councils of ministers and military and judicial institutions).

All countries recorded modest results on the (freedom of opinion and expression) scale, with a relative advantage in the case of Kuwait and Qatar (foreign media as opposed to local media), and Oman (especially with regard to confronting hate speech and incitement to violence). Most of these countries are witnessing court cases and arbitrary arrests, and trials marred by legal defects involving dozens of citizens on charges related to freedom of opinion and expression.

Expatriate workers and foreign communities in all GCC countries face severe challenges with regard to trade union and professional representation, and obtaining stable and effective residency in these countries. On a related note, Bahrain, the Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman can be considered ideal environments – to some extent – for foreign communities with regard to the freedom to practice and participate in social and cultural activities.

With the exception of Kuwait, whose citizens have better access to information – compared with the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – as well the ability of citizens to establish community-based institutions concerned with transparency and oversight of the use of public funds, the Gulf countries recorded a decline on the scale of (transparency), noting that this scale is related to the issue of “public participation” in transparency and obtaining information, and is not related to the effectiveness of all state measures in combating corruption.

Accordingly, it can be seen that the ranking of the UAE and Qatar is lagging behind in this index (transparency), despite the progress of the two countries in the global transparency index, which is due to the efficiency and transparency of procedures and systems in the two countries.

With regard to the political participation of women and youth, it is observed that all Gulf Cooperation Council countries are moving towards adopting appropriate policies and procedures.

State of Kuwait brief results

By scoring 535 points, Kuwait surpassed the 500-point mark of the total index points (1000 points), and ranked first among the GCC countries on the index. Kuwait came first on the following four out of the ten scales: (constitutional life / general elections / transparency / freedom of opinion and expression).

Kuwait; however, scored low on the scales related to (political organisations / representation of groups and minorities / foreign communities), with significant emerging challenges with regard to legislation pertaining to the operation of political parties, resolving the stateless “Bidoon” dossier, and discrimination between its citizens with regard to political participation in elections, as well as foreign communities residing in the country.

Kingdom of Bahrain brief results

Bahrain is ranked second, with 84 points ahead of Kuwait. Bahrain came first on the following three scales: (political organizations / civil society institutions / foreign communities). It’s performance with regard to the local laws and regulations governing the work of civil society institutions and trade unions has been distinguished. The same applies to guaranteeing stable and effective residence for foreign communities and ensuring their union representation. Bahrain; however, scored low on the scales related to (freedom of opinion and expression / representation of groups and minorities).

The most important failures are related to discrimination, ensuring adequate representation of sections of the society, and the safety of citizens when exercising criticism. Bahrain scored lowest on the scale related to (access to leadership and sensitive positions), recording the highest presence rate of members of the ruling family in various senior state positions.

Sultanate of Oman brief results

With an-eleven-point difference, Oman came third, leading on the (representation of groups and minorities) scale, due to the Government’s policies that guarantee equality among its citizens and adequate representation of the various sections of society. The Sultanate’s performance was also distinguished on the scale of “access to leadership and sensitive positions”, on which it came second. Although the Sultan holds the position of Prime Minister and a number of ministerial positions, the permeability of Omanis from outside the ruling family to higher state positions is high.

The Sultanate scored “zero” on the (political organisations) scale, as forming or joining political parties are prohibited. It also recorded a decline on other scales such as (general elections / freedom of opinion and expression).

State of Qatar brief results

By scoring 405 points, Qatar ranked fourth, and was leading on the scale related to (access to leadership and sensitive positions), with two figures from the ruling family in the Council of Ministers (the Prime Minister, who also holds the position of Minister of Interior, in addition to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, also from the ruling family). It is also noteworthy that the country’s Constitution does not stipulate that the Emir is the Head of the Judiciary. Despite documenting a difference in the area of freedom of opinion and expression in dealing with internal and external issues, Qatar achieved an advanced rank on the scale related to (freedom of opinion and expression).

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.

The United Arab Emirates brief results

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”.

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

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.

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.

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