Tensions between the parliamentary opposition and the government appears to have created a rift within the government and ruling family. MPs loyal to the government and particularly to the prime minister voted against deputy premier Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah. However, both Sheikh Ahmad and the Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser managed to delay the debate of their grillings for two weeks.
Sheikh Nasser, who managed to delay a previous grilling for a year, used his constitutional right to delay the grilling for two weeks and was granted the right without voting. It was however not clear if Sheikh Nasser will accept to debate the grilling after two weeks as he may request referring the grilling to the constitutional court for a second time. The grilling is based on accusations that Sheikh Nasser favoured improved relations with Iran at the expense of Gulf states and for inviting Iranian foreign minister to visit Kuwait two weeks ago.
It appears very likely that Sheikh Ahmad could be voted out of office if after debating his grilling, MPs file a no-confidence motion. For a no-confidence motion to pass, only 25 votes from elected MPs are required, excluding government ministers.
The parliamentary committee is expected to recommend that Sheikh Ahmad should face at least part of the grilling which accuses him of corruption amounting to KD 250 million, alleged financial and administrative irregularities. The accusations fall within the ministries of housing and development and also within the Olympic Council of Asia which he chairs and the sports field where Sheikh Ahmad heads a number of organizations, including the Olympic Committee.
Sheikh Ahmad said that he is not responsible for the sports field and the Olympic Council of Asia, while he said that other corruption allegations have been committed during the previous government and accordingly cannot be debated.
May 31, 2011
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The past two weeks have seen an unprecedented amount of parliamentary-governmental tension. The recent clash is a result of both internal and external issues facing Kuwait. What makes the recent clash most worrying is that it shows what is now a public rift within the ranks of the ruling family, on both internal and external affairs.
On the external front, the main sticking point is the relations between Kuwait and Iran. Sunni Islamist MPs have accused the government of being too lenient on alleged Iranian meddling in internal Kuwaiti affairs. The ongoing Bahrain crisis has had a major role in triggering increased tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Kuwait. This carries implications that may well spill out of parliament into the streets, especially if parliament is dissolved and parliamentary life suspended.
Internally, allegations of corruption against a senior member of the ruling family like Sheikh Ahmad, and the fact that this may well be investigated indicate that at least within the ruling family, there are growing rifts. These may not only be related to corruption allegations, but about more long-term issues including succession and the role of the ruling family in government.
There is an even higher possibility that the Emir may dissolve parliament and sack the cabinet to avoid what may well be a damaging grilling session, proving embarrassing to the ruling family as much as to Sheikh Ahmad himself. Dissolving parliament at this stage, will lead to a substantial increase of the risk of civil unrest, between Shiite and Sunnis, especially if elections were delayed.
The growing rift will also likely negatively affect plans to implement the development plans aimed at economic diversification.
The figures below show the make-up of the Kuwaiti parliament (left) and the make-up of the population (right)