Kuwaiti parliament speaker says ailing emir wants to take oath

Request signals discord within the ranks of the country's ruling family.

sheikh saad 88 (photo credit: AP)
sheikh saad 88
(photo credit: AP)
The Cabinet on Saturday asked parliament to transfer power from the ailing new emir to the prime minister, but the emir told the legislature that he wanted to take the oath of office. The conflicting requests signaled serious discord within the ruling family of the oil-rich Gulf state. "The Cabinet expresses its deep sorrow ... over the health of his highness the emir, Sheik Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah, and it has therefore decided to invoke constitutional procedures under article three of the 1964 succession law," the Cabinet said in a statement after an emergency meeting. The law stipulates that if the emir "looses the physical ability to perform his duties," the Cabinet can take the matter to the parliament, which will discuss it in a closed session. The cabinet meeting took place shortly after Sheik Saad told parliament he wanted it to meet and administer the oath. According to the constitution the parliament can transfer power to the crown prince with a two-thirds vote, if it is proven the emir can no longer rule. But the prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who has been ruling the country on a day-to-day basis for several years, has not yet been named crown prince. The new emir has one year to make that appointment. He automatically became emir after the death Jan. 15 of Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who had been ill since suffering a brain hemorrhage five years ago. Jassem al-Kharafi, the speaker of parliament had only just announced the new emir's request to be sworn in when news of the cabinet decision was announced. "Yes, I received a letter from his highness the emir asking for a (parliamentary) session so that he can take the oath," al-Kharafi told reporters. Al-Kharafi said he was going to meet the emir, but he did not give a date. Sheik Sadd, who is in his mid-70s, was in a wheelchair at his predecessor's funeral and in brief public appearances since. He showed little reaction as Kuwaitis paid their condolences. Sheik Saad's health has deteriorated since he suffered from a bleeding colon in 1997, and many lawmakers have expressed concern that he might not be physically able even to take the complete oath of office. Prime Minister Sheik Sabah agreed to a request by some members of the ruling family to take charge of the country on Friday because of the new emir's ill health, a move that was seen as a first step to his taking over the top office. Members of the Al Salem branch of the family, however, appear to have objected to the move and were shown on state television meeting Sheik Sabah at his residence.