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A second Kuwait cabinet minister resigned under pressure from the parliamentary opposition, within one month. The minister for social affairs and labour resigned this week and the finance minister quit last month after a questioning session in parliament led by opposition lawmakers.

 

Opposition MPs are reportedly mulling similar sessions for the oil minister, interior minister and defence minister over various other issues. Such grillings either end with the minister resigning before the grilling, or a vote of no-confidence.

 

At present Kuwait's ruler picks the prime minister who in turn selects a cabinet. Political parties are banned so MPs rely on forming blocs.

 

The current parliament is the fourth in less than six years. It was elected in December 2011 after the previous one was dissolved by the Emir after similar clashes with the cabinet then.

 

Islamist MP Faisal al-Muslim, an important figure in the opposition bloc, said the whole government should resign and allow for broader political representation in the cabinet.

 

The opposition are demanding at least 9 of the 15 posts in a new cabinet headed by the current prime minister. One minister in the current cabinet, Shueib Shabbab al-Muweizry, was drawn from the elected assembly, the minimum number under the constitution. He is the Minister of State for Housing Affairs and for National Assembly Affairs.

 

June 12, 2012

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

There are frequent clashes between the government and parliament in Kuwait, that have led to the dissolution of four parliaments in the past six years and seven governments. However, the nature of the current clash is one of the most serious yet.

 

The Islamist-led opposition are now demanding over half of the cabinet posts. The opposition has intensified calls for a smaller role for the ruling family in the cabinet. It was reported that the Emir agreed to offer the opposition a quarter of the cabinet posts in the current government, but the opposition rejected the offer. The oppositon now appear to be intensifying their calls for a political shake-up.

 

With no compromise given by either side, there are two possible outcomes. The first is that the Emir dissolves parliament and call for elections, or that a new government is formed. With the Emir unlikely to accede to the opposition's demands, it is likely that the next weeks and months will witness much local political wranglings that also increase the potential of civil unrest, although unlikely at this stage.

 

The most serious implication of the political uncertainty, however, is an elevated economic risk. The government's development plan and efforts for diversification will be stalled yet again, and markets are expected to respond negatively.