What is this site?

The web site includes:

* Election returns for all elections to Kuwait’s National Assembly since 1963 (and returns for some previous elections). This includes data – when available – on the political affiliation of candidates in the elections and the results of tribal primaries.
* Some roll call votes in the National Assembly and membership in parliamentary blocs.
* All members of all governments since 1962.
* The tribal and sectarian affiliations of all candidates, deputies and members of the government, when known.

The information is stored in a relational database, and is presented on the website in a variety of different formats. The database does not have contact information: it is meant to be a resource for information on Kuwait’s political system.

Who are you?

I’m Michael Herb, a political scientist in the department of political science at Georgia State University in Atlanta. (Here’s information on our graduate program.)

Why do you have this website?

I’m a political scientist interested in the Gulf, and I find Kuwait’s politics to be fascinating. I also like relational databases.

No, really, why?

OK, here is a longer answer about why the database is useful to me, and I think other researchers. Kuwait has elections, but no parties, and when I first started writing about Kuwait it was hard to keep track of who everyone was: what bloc they belong to, what sect and tribe they came from, and so forth. It was especially hard to keep track from one election to the next. A database of some sort seemed to be in order. Now, if you (or I) want to know who was in the Popular Bloc in the 2003 Assembly, I can answer that question for you, for me, and for anyone else who comes by.

How can I help?

I do a LOT of things besides maintain this website. I pay attention when there is something going on in Kuwait, especially an election. But I fall behind other times. I especially miss votes in the National Assembly. If there was a vote for something important, and it is not on the website, shoot me an email and let me know. I can only put it on the website if the vote was reported in one of the newspapers or if it appears on the National Assembly web site.

Also, send me corrections of any errors.

Why is it in Arabic (mostly) and are you planning to translate it to English?

The audience for the website is very largely Kuwaiti. The second country, in terms of number of visitors, is Saudi Arabia, followed by the United States. So the database is in the language of the largest group of visitors. Most, but not all, academics and researchers who visit the website can deal with Arabic script in one way or another.

There are about 3,500 names in the database, all in Arabic script. To transliterate these names to English would be an enormous task, especially because it is not at all clear how many of the names would be vowelled. And keep in mind that some of these folks win 4 or 5 votes in one election, then never run again.

How many people are on your team?

None. It’s just me. I receive emails with corrections, and a number of Kuwaitis have offered very, very helpful suggestions, but the actual maintenance of the database, and the website, is done by me. My brother and brother-in-law both work in software and they have given me some good advice too (thanks Joe and Jim).

How do you maintain so many pages?

The secret to the whole thing is the relational database. For example, there are about 3,500 pages that display data for a single individual. There is one template, and the database fills it in 3,500 times. The same is true for other types of pages on the Web site. Because it is a relational database, a piece of information that appears on two pages (say, a full name) is in the database in only one place.

Where do you get the data?

The data comes from KUNA, al-Qabas, al-Jarida, al-Watan (especially for tribal primary results), and many other sources. I try to give sources for specific information on the various pages.

How accurate is the data?

As accurate as I can make it, but there are mistakes. Some are in the sources that I use, and others are data entry errors that I make (even though I try hard to automate data entry whenever possible). If you see a problem, let me know.

What could the Ministry of Interior do to make this easier?

In recent years the ministry has made public, officially, the results for only the top ten vote winners in each district. The rest of the results are published, unofficially, in the local press. Kuwaitis are rightly proud of their tradition of holding elections: there is nothing that the ministry should want to hide, and the full results should be made public officially.

Who is the data for?

Anyone who visits. The original intent was to help other researchers. After a while it became clear that the primary audience was in fact Kuwaitis, and that it was helpful to Kuwaitis in keeping track of members of the National Assembly (and members of the government).

Does anyone pay you to do this?

Nope. I’m an employee of the University System of Georgia, which is funded by the Georgia General Assembly and student tuition. I am paid to be a political scientist who teaches and researches Middle East politics.

Can I link to your data?

Sure, go right ahead.

Can I use your data in an academic work?

Absolutely, but please cite it.

Can I download all the data and use it for something else?

I do not own these data. I’m no expert on Kuwaiti intellectual property law, but this sort of data should be freely available to anyone: basic democracy requires that citizens know how their representatives vote, the results of elections, and so forth.