KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah pose for a group photo with HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and his new Cabinet ministers after they were sworn in at Bayan Palace yesterday. – KUNA

KUWAIT: After four weeks of consultations, HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah yesterday announced his 14-member almost technocrat Cabinet which included seven new faces. The Cabinet was immediately sworn in by HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, but the first day of the new government did not pass without threats by MPs, with one of them threatening to grill the premier. And, for the first time, an interior minister from outside the ruling family was appointed, while the ministers of defense and foreign affairs were also changed.

HH the Amir urged the new ministers yesterday to join hands with the prime minister against “whoever wants to undermine your stability”. Addressing the ministers after they were sworn in, HH the Amir said: “You will hear many mean words and you should respond; don’t be shy, if there is anyone accusing you, there are courts” to seek.

“We are blessed with peace and security. You should cooperate with each other under chairmanship of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled. I wish you the best of luck,” said HH the Amir. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said yesterday that the responsibility entrusted in him by HH the Amir requires him to shoulder it with utmost efforts to serve the homeland.

Anas Al-Saleh, the minister of state for Cabinet affairs in the outgoing Cabinet and who helmed the finance ministry for years, was appointed the interior minister, unprecedented for a non-ruling family member in Kuwait’s 58 years of parliamentary democracy. The new Cabinet has three women, one more than the previous government, with Mariam Al-Aqeel assigned to the key finance ministry and newcomer Rana Al-Fares given the portfolio of public works and housing.
Ghadeer Aseeri, a liberal academic, was appointed minister of social affairs, but her appointment triggered protests by opposition MPs who threatened to grill the prime minister. Sheikh Ahmad Mansour Al-Sabah, a former defense ministry undersecretary, was promoted to become the defense minister. Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sabah, the son of a former prime minister, was appointed foreign minister to replace the prime minister himself. Sheikh Ahmad has been at the foreign ministry for the past two decades.

The economic team of the Cabinet remained almost intact. Commerce and Industry Minister Khaled Al-Roudhan and Oil and Electricity Minister Khaled Al-Fadhel, in addition to Finance Minister Aqeel, were retained, an indication that economic and financial policies are unlikely to change.

Opposition Islamist MP Mohammad Al-Mutair immediately threatened to grill the prime minister for including Aseeri as minister because of her previous views on Bahrain. Aseeri, a former National Assembly candidate, had strongly opposed the crackdown on the Shiite-led protest in Bahrain and sending of Gulf troops to support the government there against protesters. Mutair gave the prime minister until the Assembly session next week to remove Aseeri from the Cabinet, threatening to grill him if he fails to do so. Islamist activists also supported this view and considered the inclusion of Aseeri in the Cabinet as a big mistake.

National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said he will call for the Assembly to resume sessions on Dec 24, as he welcomed the formation of the new Cabinet. MP Thamer Al-Suwait said the Cabinet formation is “normal” and there is nothing in it that calls for optimism, adding that the problem of governments in Kuwait has been a lack of a real program of action for decades. MP Khaled Al-Otaibi said the government should forge ahead with real reforms to rescue the country. Meanwhile, the new Cabinet is expected to approve a decree to pardon former opposition MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and opposition activist Mohammad Al-Dossari.

By B Izzak