Political parties are prohibited, but opposition groups are active in the nation's political life. Several political groups act as de facto parties: Bedouins, merchants, Sunni and Shi'ite activists, and secular leftists and nationalists. Political opinions are freely expressed in informal gatherings in the homes of government officials and leading citizens.
Pro-government forces gained ground over Muslim fundamentalist candidates in the elections of 8 October 1996. Following the 1999 elections, the Assembly was split almost evenly between pro-government, liberal, and Islamic members. Pro-government forces held 13 seats, with the rest held by Islamic and liberal parties, and unaffiliated independents.
The Islamists are divided between the Ikhwan, which traces its political antecedents to Egypt's Muslim brotherhood, and two Salafi groups which draw inspiration from Sa'udi Arabia. Current political groupings include the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) and the Islamic Popular Group (of the Salafi tendency), two Sunni organizations; the Islamic National Alliance, the main faction for Shi'a Muslims; the Kuwait Democratic Forum (KDF), a loose association of groups with Nassarist and pan-Arabist foundations; and the National Democratic Group, composed of generally secular progressives with liberal tendencies. The rest are independents or are tribal confederations.