Kuwait's cabinet members resign en masse in standoff with parliament

WION Web Team
Kuwait City, Kuwait Published: Jan 13, 2021, 03.57 PM(IST)

Kuwaiti MPs attend a parliament session at the national assembly in Kuwait City Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The standoff between the government and parliament less than a month after the cabinet was appointed poses the first big challenge to Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who assumed power in September

Kuwait's Prime Minister Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah presented the resignation of his cabinet to the country's ruler on Wednesday, days before the premiere was due to be questioned in parliament over his choice of ministers and other issues.

It comes as 38 members of parliament backed a request to question the prime minister, who they accuse of violating the constitution when forming the government and of failing to present a cabinet work programme.

The standoff between the government and parliament less than a month after the cabinet was appointed poses the first big challenge to Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who assumed power in September.

It complicates government efforts to tackle the OPEC state's deepest economic crisis in decades, caused by low oil prices and the coronavirus crisis.

Ministers had submitted their resignations on Tuesday to Sheikh Sabah, a move the government said was related to "developments in the relationship between the National Assembly (parliament) and the government".

It was not immediately clear if the emir, who has the final say in matters of state, would accept the cabinet's resignation.

The motion to question Sheikh Sabah, who has been prime minister since late 2019, was submitted by three lawmakers on Jan. 5 in the first regular session of the new assembly, in which the opposition made gains in last year's election.

More than 30 other MPs in the assembly, which has 50 elected members, supported the request to question him. The motion seen by Reuters referred to a cabinet that did not reflect the poll result and government "interference" in electing the speaker and members of parliamentary committees. In addition to its elected members, cabinet ministers also sit in parliament.

The oil-rich country has been shaken by political disputes between lawmakers and the ruling family-led government for over a decade, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times.

A previous cabinet stepped down in November 2019 amid accusations of corruption and infighting, while the last cabinet was replaced in December 2020 elections.

Kuwait is the only Gulf state with a fully elected parliament, which enjoys wide legislative powers and can vote ministers out of office.

The country has the Gulf's oldest elected parliament, but under the constitution, the emir has extensive powers and can dissolve the legislature at the recommendation of the government.

Like most Gulf countries, Kuwait's economy and state budgets have been hit by both the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the low price of oil.

In December elections, the opposition or allied candidates won nearly half of the parliament's 50 seats in elections.

The polls were the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah, at the age of 91.

Kuwaitis have in recent years expressed their desire for reform in their country, where 70 per cent of the 4.8 million population are foreigners.

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