Kuwait’s minority government bows out after a month

Legislature clashes with executive over constitutional prerogatives, including selection of speaker

 Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah takes the oath of office at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/STEPHANIE MCGEHEE)
Kuwait's new Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah takes the oath of office at the parliament, in Kuwait City, Kuwait September 30, 2020
Less than a month after its formation, Kuwait’s government resigned on Tuesday, after the elected parliament unanimously approved a motion of noncooperation, meaning the cabinet must be replaced.
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Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah presented the resignation of all cabinet members to Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah on Tuesday.
The emir’s powers include appointing the prime minister, who in turn chooses the cabinet. The National Assembly is the most independent legislature in the Arab world.
Hussein Jamal, a leading Kuwaiti writer and media personality, told The Media Line the resignations were inevitable, as Kuwaitis were at a political crossroad requiring either confrontation or compromise, and the government had chosen non-confrontation.
“The government knew that it would lose, so it preferred to resign in order to form a new government, as a sign of goodwill and concessions on its part,” Jamal said, adding that the opposition consisted of hard-liners.
However, he said that unless a solution was reached, political confrontations would continue, and early elections would inevitably be held in early summer.
“The government is currently facing restructuring, and this requires changing some of the faces that have caused controversy among the opposition, which has the most votes in parliament,” Jamal said.
There were voices within the opposition who wanted to negotiate with the government to solve pressing issues, in terms of complete or special amnesty [for expatriates in the country illegally and for some political figures and activists], civil liberties and the cancellation of laws, as well as matters of nationality and sovereignty, he explained.
“We can call it a smaller formation of opposition that is less radical, which wants to bring thorny files to the circle of dialogue,” Jamal said.
The resignations will disrupt the government’s operations and state projects, which will be reflected in the economy and in the morale of citizens and society, he indicated.
“Regionally, Kuwait needs to strengthen its domestic front, as there are popular demands to restore Kuwait to its former strength and capabilities,” he said.
Kuwait was lagging behind other Gulf countries it had been ahead of in the past, in terms of the economy, development and more, Jamal noted.
“These are major issues that must be dealt with, but under different circumstances and not in the current fragile environment,” he said, adding that the opposition, as well as popular and political forces, were urging the solution of fundamental problems and the initiation of development projects.
“The [political] waters in Kuwait, which have been stagnant for more than three decades, must move,” Jamal said.
Dr. Ayed al-Manaa, a Kuwaiti academic and political researcher, explained to The Media Line that the resignations came as a result of an interpellation, or submission of questions, directed by three deputies to the prime minister, the first of which was related to the formation of the government and the failure to take into account the outcome of the electoral process, “and thus brought about a government that is not compatible with the situation.”
The second question had to do with the prime minister’s interference in the December 5 parliamentary election, and tipping the scales so that Marzouq Al-Ghanim was subsequently re-elected as speaker of the National Assembly, over his opponent Badr Al-Hamidi, Manaa continued.
“I think this [the vote for speaker] is the crux of the issue [between the prime minister and the legislature],” he added.
The third question concerned the government’s violation of the constitution, by not submitting its program to the National Assembly for discussion, he said.
“After these questions were presented, 38 deputies signed a letter of non-cooperation in advance, before hearing the debate [on the issue]. I mean, an overwhelming majority was against the prime minister,” Manaa explained. Therefore, he said, instead of facing questioning, the prime minister and his cabinet resigned.
“Now there will be a [caretaker] government to handle urgent matters, and it is up to the emir whether to ask the prime minister to form a new government and replace some ministers; or assign another person from the ruling [Al-Sabah] family to form a government; or dissolve parliament and call new elections,” he said.
The governmental crisis would disrupt development projects and paralyze politics and public services in the country, Manaa said.