File Photo: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah speaks as HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (right) and Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem (left) listen on during the opening ceremony of the new legislative session of the National Assembly. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah opens the new term of the National Assembly today amid signs of tensions easing between lawmakers and the government after two opposition MPs withdrew a grilling against the prime minister. Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem added the Assembly will vote on the membership of two opposition MPs sentenced to jail terms by the supreme court.

Following the official opening ceremony in which HH the Amir will deliver a major speech along with another one by the speaker and a third by Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, the Assembly is expected to start debating a grilling against Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Adel Al-Khorafi. This will be followed by two votes on the membership of MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, who were handed final jail terms for storming the Assembly building during a protest in Nov 2011, Ghanem told reporters.

He said the two votes will be carried out separately for each MP, adding that revoking the membership of the two lawmakers will require 33 votes of the Assembly’s 65 members, who include 16 Cabinet members. Based on signals from the Assembly and the government, the two lawmakers are in a strong position to survive the vote and retain their seats. They only need the government’s 16 members to abstain from voting. Ghanem refused to provide details on what will happen if Harbash and Tabtabaei survive, adding everything will be explained after the voting.

The idea that the two MPs are highly expected to survive was strongly supported when opposition MPs Shuaib Al-Muwaizri and Mohammad Al-Mutair withdrew a grilling they had submitted several months ago against the prime minister over alleged violations. The two lawmakers said in a statement that their step came after the government made important moves to resolve a number of critical issues. They did not elaborate, but they were clearly indicating to the return of several revoked citizenships to opposition activists and to the expectation that the government will support maintaining the membership of Harbash and Tabtabaei. The Assembly’s legal and legislative affairs committee has already voted in favor of the two MPs remaining in their seats.

The Assembly could still delay the debate of Khorafi’s grilling if the minister asks for a two-week delay. Following the opening ceremony, the grilling and the membership votes, the Assembly will elect members of its permanent and temporary committees if there is sufficient time, otherwise it will be delayed until the next session.

By B Izzak