Kuwaiti opposition MPs file to quiz premier

KUWAIT CITY - The Gulf state of Kuwait on Monday appeared headed for a new political crisis after three opposition MPs filed a motion to question the prime minister in parliament over a police crackdown.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 13 Dec 2010, 7:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 6:05 AM

The lawmakers, Mussallam al-Barrak, Jamaan al-Harbash and Saleh al-Mulla, represent the three main opposition groups in the Kuwaiti parliament and are backed by at least 17 other MPs.

“Today we filed a motion to grill the prime minister for breaching the constitution and for undermining public freedoms,” Barrak told a press conference after submitting the motion to parliament speaker.

The elite special forces on Wednesday used batons to beat up MPs and citizens at a public rally, wounding at least four lawmakers and a dozen citizens.

Kuwaiti authorities on Monday closed the office of the Doha-based Al-Jazeera pan-Arab news television over its extensive coverage of the police crackdown, and withdrew the accreditation of its correspondents.

The opposition has held Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a senior member of the Al-Sabah ruling family, responsible for the crackdown.

The opposition move came despite a strong warning from Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah who held organisers of the rally responsible for forcing the police action.

“What happened was not the mistake of the special forces, which were executing orders to implement the law, but (rather) the result of practices by participants,” Sheikh Sabah told editors of local Kuwaiti dailies.

Al-Seyassah newspaper quoted the emir on Monday as defending the prime minister who is his nephew.

“I am the one responsible for the police action and they (the opposition) can ask me instead of questioning the prime minister or others,” the emir was cited as saying.

Barrak however accused the government of creating the latest standoff with parliament by attempting to stifle freedom of speech and expression.

“The government today is not just taking action against those who speak, but also against those who listen to speeches,” said Barrak, referring to the police action against those attending the rally.

OPEC member Kuwait was the first Arab state in the Gulf to embrace parliamentary democracy, doing so in 1962.

Wednesday’s rally was the second in a series of opposition protests against an alleged “government plot” to amend the 1962 constitution and suppress freedom and democracy.

The opposition has temporarily suspended further gatherings to safeguard the safety of citizens, according to a statement.

Kuwait has a 50-member parliament while the 16 cabinet ministers, of whom 15 are unelected, automatically become members of parliament and have similar voting rights as elected MPs.

The grilling of the prime minister will take place on December 28, parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi told reporters. It could lead to a motion of non-cooperation with the government which requires the signature of 10 MPs.

To pass, the motion of non-cooperation requires the support of 25 elected MPs. Government ministers are not allowed to vote on such a motion.

If the motion is passed, the issue is then sent to the emir who can either dismiss the prime minister or dissolve parliament and call for snap elections, according to the Kuwaiti law.

The latest motion to question the Kuwait premier is the eighth since he was appointed to the post in February 2008.

The emirate, which sits on 10 percent of world oil reserves, has been rocked by a series of political crises over the past five years that led the ruler to dissolve parliament three times, while the cabinet has resigned five times.

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