Assembly term opens today with crises looming

KUWAIT: The National Assembly opens its new term today amid indications of strained relations between lawmakers and the government, which is facing several grillings against a number of its ministers. HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah will open the new term with a speech expected to call for more cooperation between the government and the legislature in a bid to avoid political crises.

The Assembly will elect members of permanent and temporary panels with the government likely to play a more active role to ensure that its supporters control key panels like the interior and defense, financial and economic affairs, legal and legislative and others.

Key battles are expected to take place between pro-government and opposition lawmakers over the interior and defense and the financial affairs committees, which are expected to discuss a number of crucial issues and legislation, mainly on austerity measures.

The assembly will also listen to two speeches by Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, who is expected to highlight his government’s plans over the coming 12 months. Although the Assembly is supposed to start with a fresh agenda, it will start with a debate to set a date for discussing a grilling filed against State Minister for Cabinet Affairs and acting Information Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah over allegations of financial and administrative violations.

The grilling request was filed two weeks ago by opposition MPs Abdulkarim Al-Kandari and Riyadh Al-Adasani amid reports that lawmakers may file a no-confidence motion against the minister. MPs have also threatened to grill Oil Minister Essam Al-Marzouq over a series of allegations amid renewed attacks on the leadership of the oil sector.

MP Faisal Al-Kandari lashed out at Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC) over a statement it issued regarding its role in proposing hiking fuel prices to be on par with international prices. Kandari claimed that the statement is an attempt by KPC and the minister to cover up a series of violations and an attempt to avoid the planned grilling of the minister.

He also charged that Marzouq wrongly applied a decision to send to retirement senior employees selectively, by referring only some officials and leaving others in place. Kandari pointed out violations such as promoting a safety engineer to work in the finance department, increasing KPC’s deputy CEO’s salary from KD 3,000 to 12,000 and contacting lawmakers to inquire about the details to be included in the grilling motion.

MP Saleh Ashour charged that a series of violations have been committed by the oil sector, which led to massive losses in oil contracts like the huge fine paid to Dow Chemical and the strike by oil workers. He said that decisions of appointments and promotions in the oil sector must be suspended because of their violation of laws and regulations.

Meanwhile, opposition MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash, Mohammad Hayef and Adel Al-Damkhi warned the government after a meeting that the issue of returning revoked citizenships of opposition figures could strain its relations with the Assembly. They said that the issue appears to be subjected to disputes with leading figures in the ruling family.

It was agreed earlier this year that the government will return the revoked citizenships in return for cooperation between the Assembly and the government. Only the citizenship of former MP Abdullah Al-Barghash and his family members have been returned, while several others are still waiting.

By B Izzak and A Saleh

 

This article was published on 23/10/2017