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The Emir of Kuwait has reappointed Sheikh Nasser as prime-minister, after the resignation of the government. This will be Nasser’s seventh government since February 2007. All previous governments, including the sixth, resigned due to parliamentary pressure. Soon after the announcement that the Emir chose Nasser to form the new government, leading opposition MPs of the Popular Action Bloc strongly lashed out Nasser, insisting he will not succeed in his seventh government because “he has failed in all major issues since he was appointed five years ago”. Spokesman of the Bloc MP Musallam Al-Barrak told reporters the National Assembly will not accept the seventh government under Nasser because “he will take the country back to square one, which is a policy of failure.”

 

Referring to the controversy about the Iranian spy ring and allegations that Sheikh Nasser sent State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Roudhan Al-Roudhan to offer an apology to the Iranian embassy, Barrak said that he did not make the story up but only cited it from a local newspaper. Roudhan and Barrak made several exchanges over the issue with Roudhan strongly denying that he made an apology or that he was asked to do so by the prime minister.

 

The opposition Popular Bloc has vowed it will file to grill Sheikh Nasser as soon as he forms the new government, over allegations of corruption.

 

April 14, 2011

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

The political scene in Kuwait appears to be heading for a further escalation. However, this time, it is intertwined with rising ethno-religious tensions between GCC states and Iran, making the potential fallout highly damaging on the country’s internal stability.

 

The scene is now entangled between the traditional political tensions that have existed between the successive Sheikh Nasser governments and the parliamentary opposition, but with the added layers of Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Iranian tension. The Kuwaiti government’s fall in March was an indirect result of the Bahrain crisis, that has all but hastened its collapse. Hardline Sunni MP’s are demanding that the government take a tougher line against Iran and, indirectly, against Shiites in the country, whilst the government faces mounting pressure from other GCC states to be more proactive in its support for the anti-Iranian public diplomacy campaign.

 

Whilst Shiite Kuwaitis are generally regarded as equal citizens in Kuwait and active in both political and economic life of the country, the regional Sunni-Shiite tensions have spilled over into the country, straining the relations between the two groups.

 

An added complexity facing the regime in Kuwait is more sustained calls from the opposition not to re-appoint members of the ruling family in the cabinet. These calls are gaining rapid momentum, although they are not directly related to the ethno-religious tensions. This is a highly sensitive issue both for the Kuwaiti government as well as the ruling Sabah family, which tries to maintain a delicate balance between the branches of the family. There appear to be two options:

  1. Sheikh Nasser forms his government on broadly the same lines as his previous government. This will likely lead to an immediate grilling request, although the opposition may decide to postpone carrying out their threat. Although Sheikh Nasser has broken the grilling taboo by acceding to a grilling request last year, the situation now may not allow for an easy compromise and the Emir may resort to dissolving parliament. This could lead to widespread civil unrest;
  2. Sheikh Nasser forms a government that excludes members of the ruling family, or makes significant changes to its his ministerial line-up. This may temporarily reduce the crisis, although he is less likely going to opt for this option.

The situation in Kuwait therefore looks likely to face further complications with an increased risk of civil unrest.

 

The figure below shows the make-up of the Kuwait population, followed by a figure showing the make-up of the Kuwaiti parliament.