The emir of Kuwait has launched an unprecedented attack on parliament, accusing it of stalling development and blaming the constitution for lingering political turmoil.


"Parliament has disappointed the aspirations of the Kuwaiti people," Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published on Monday and cited by the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA.


The emir is in Germany at the start of a European tour that will also include Italy and the Vatican.


"It (parliament) has wasted a golden opportunity and a long time discussing issues totally far away from development projects," the emir said.


"What the people say, that parliament has obstructed development and has been engaged in impotent political debates, is true and this was acknowledged by the lawmakers themselves," he said.


Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a nephew of the emir, has been under constant political pressure by opposition MPs, forcing him to resign five times since he was appointed in February 2006.


The Kuwaiti ruler also blamed the constitution for causing political turmoil because it is a combination of both presidential and parliamentary systems.


"It is neither presidential nor parliamentary but a combination of both. This leads to overlapping of authority between parliament and the government and eventually results in disputes," he said.


As a result of this system, parliament is stronger than the government and MPs want to force through popular decisions which defy logic, Sheikh Sabah said.


April 27, 2010



Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


The frank and open attack by the Emir against parliament is highly unusual and unprecedented.


Previous clashes between parliament and government has resulted in the dissolution of parliament and a calling for fresh elections. However, in all re-elections, the same parliamentary make-up was returned and the Emir re-appointed the same prime-minister, with minor changes in the make-up of government. This made the reasons for clashes remain. Because of sensitivities within the royal family, the Emir has limited scope in whom he can ask to form a new government.


The Emir’s statements, particularly against the political system and constitution, are the strongest hint that if there is a parliamentary-government clash, the Emir will dissolve parliament and suspend parliamentary life. This will allow the drafting of either a new constitution or keeping the same constitution but allowing public opinion to change over a few year period, before elections are held again.


If this happens, Kuwait will be expected to enter a period of unrest. The Kuwaiti government has reportedly last bought anti-riot equipment for such an eventuality if parliament was suspended and no elections held. This is likely to overlap with expected changes within the ruling family as succession issues become more urgent.


The Emir’s statements definitely indicate a move in this direction and the risk of increasing civil unrest within Kuwait is therefore significantly higher.


The figure below shows the current make-up of the Kuwaiti parliament: