Stage set for snap elections after Assembly dissolved

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (left) receives a decree to dissolve the National Assembly from HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah yesterday. — Amiri Diwan

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (left) receives a decree to dissolve the National Assembly from HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah yesterday. — Amiri Diwan

Amir cites ‘security challenges’ in dissolution decree

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah yesterday issued a decree dissolving the National Assembly, setting the stage for fresh elections within two months, citing the escalation of regional conflicts and the need to go back to the people to choose new representatives. The surprising decision was issued hours after Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said he informed the political leadership that the country was passing through a delicate phase that needed a new government and going back to the ballot boxes.

The decree to dissolve the Assembly, which has only several months left of its four-year term, was issued following an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, which recommended to the Amir to dissolve the Assembly. The decree said that due to the serious security challenges from regional conflicts, it was necessary to go back to the people to allow them to elect their representatives to contribute to confronting those challenges.

The dissolution was based on article 107 of the constitution, which stipulates that new elections must be held within two months. No date was however set for the fresh polls. A new decree will be issued within the next few days to set the date. Parliamentary sources expected the new election to be held at a closer date, around the middle of November, rather than towards the end of the two-month period.

The dissolution, the seventh since 2006, also came after lawmakers last week filed three requests to grill the finance and the justice ministers over a hike in petrol prices and alleged financial and administrative violations. Other lawmakers had vowed to file more grillings against a number of other ministers, which intensified political tension. The decision to raise petrol prices subjected lawmakers to tremendous popular anger that endangered MPs losing their credibility in the eyes of voters in any future election.

After the election date is set, the interior ministry will invite candidates to register for the polls. After yesterday’s dissolution, the only assemblies that completed their full four-year terms since 1985 were the ones elected in 1992 and 1999. All the rest were dissolved prematurely either by HH the Amir or the constitutional court.

A majority of the opposition groups that boycotted the last election after the government changed the voting system appear to be set to take part in the next polls, with some predicting a good show for them. Opposition activists who have been very critical of the Assembly since it was elected in July 2013, saw the reasons behind the dissolution as unconvincing.

Some said that the agreement between the government and the speaker to hold snap polls was to prevent jailed opposition leader and former MP Musallam Al-Barrak from running in the election. Barrak is serving a two-year jail term for insulting HH the Amir and is due to complete his jail term in April next year. The activists said that even the mere presence of Barrak outside jail is threatening to the government and members of the Assembly.

The activists said on Twitter that the main achievements of the Assembly were soaring prices, hiking petrol prices, failure of development, raising electricity charges and other negative issues. Activist and university professor Ahmad Al-Thayedi said the dissolution is evidence that “Kuwait is experiencing a real political dilemma and the solution should be through dialogue and reforming the political system and not through dissolving the National Assembly”.

MP Saleh Ashour congratulated the people for the dissolution and hoped that the voters will elect lawmakers who will achieve their aspirations. A majority of the outgoing lawmakers appear to be prepared to seek reelection, with only a few of them opting out. The three lawmakers who are Cabinet ministers – Yaqoub Al-Sane, Ali Al-Omair and Issa Al-Kandari – said they will resign from the Cabinet to be able to contest the elections.

The new voting system introduced in Dec 2012 allows each voter to elect only one candidate. Each of the five electoral districts elects 10 lawmakers to make up the 50-elected members of the Assembly.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 16/10/2016