Kuwait’s parliament began its new term amid growing tensions with the government. Pressure was mounting on Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, who is a member of the royal family, to quit over new allegations that he misled Parliament during his grilling in June. The liberal National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan joined MP Musallam Al-Barrak in calling on the minister to resign, with both Barrak and Duwaisan threatening to grill the minister again.
The re-ignited fury against the interior minister is based on claims that Sheikh Jaber did not inform the parliament during his grilling in June that the public prosecution had refused to carry out an investigation into a KD 5 million contract awarded by the minister in April 2008. During the grilling, the minister repeatedly told the parliament he had referred the contract to the public prosecution on 1 June. He failed to inform MPs that he got a letter on 7 June from the public prosecutor informing him the minister's referral did not amount to initiate a criminal investigation.
As a result of the minister's replies to the grilling, he survived a no-confidence vote, supported by 30 MP’s.
In a separate development, the Criminal Court yesterday fined two MPs KD 3,000 each for issuing highly critical statements against government officials, including the prime minister, that were deemed offensive to them. Two newspapers were also fined the same amount for publishing the statements. The court convicted Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabai for strongly criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah over allegations of wrongdoings in the scheme to send patients for treatment abroad. Tabtabai denied after the ruling that he has violated the law, saying that he will challenge the ruling before the court of appeals.
22 October 2009
Analysis and Forecast: increasing risk
The revelation that the interior minister led parliament has resulted in an unusual united voice coming from various segments of parliament criticizing the minister. Parliament members felt they have saved the minister from a much embarresment had he been voted out in a vote of no-confidence in June. However, as information about the way he handled the crisis with the public prosecution’s involvement emerged, many MP’s who have voted in favour of keeping the minister have now either publically or privately indicated that they would have voted otherwise.
The call by opposition MP’s for the prime-minister to sack the interior minister will be a test for the government. If the minister is indeed sacked, tensions between the government and parliament will be diffused, but may lead to a slight increase of tension within the ranks of the ruling family. However, if the interior minister was not sacked and did not resign, it is very likely that the opposition will file to grill him and force him to resign or subject him to a potentially humiliating vote of no confidence. If this happens, the tensions between the government and parliament will escalate into a crisis, increasing the likelihood of a constitutional crisis.
Tensions are also expected to increase between government and parliament as MP’s demand the government hands out payments to Kuwaitis who have been affected by the economic crisis.
The fines imposed against MP’s by a court only add further tension to the rapidly deteriorating political situation.