KUWAIT: Opposition MPs react after the re-election of incumbent speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem during the National Assembly’s inaugural session on Tuesday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Opposition MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari yesterday filed amendments to the National Assembly internal charter to end secret voting for the speaker and other office bearers, apparently in a bid to make MPs comply with their pledges. During the Assembly’s opening session on Tuesday, incumbent speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem was re-elected with a comfortable majority, although over 40 MPs out of the 50 elected members had pledged publicly not to vote for him.

The same thing happened in 2016, when Ghanem was elected with an overwhelming majority, although at least 28 MPs had said they would not vote for him. Kandari proposed changes to two articles in the internal charter, which stipulate secret ballots for the election of the speaker, his deputy, secretary and supervisor of the Assembly.

Kandari said in the request that public voting for the speaker’s post is the right way for a transparent beginning of the new Assembly, adding that the people have the full right to know how the lawmakers they elected have voted. The outcome of the speaker’s election was shocking to a number of opposition lawmakers, some of whom cried betrayal and said they will ask for an investigation.

Opposition MP Bader Al-Dahoum said at least eight MPs who publicly pledged to vote for Ghanem’s only rival MP Bader Al-Humaidi changed their mind. Three other ballots were invalid. MP Marzouq Al-Khalifa said the outcome of the speaker’s election was disappointing, adding that those who changed their mind will be exposed during voting on crucial laws and issues.

MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri charged “foul play” in the election, and said the Cabinet’s support for Ghanem calls for non-cooperation with the government. MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf said he will demand the formation of an investigation committee next week into allegations of violations into the election of the speaker.

But new MP Fayez Al-Jamhour said that the election of the speaker “is behind us and the Assembly should look forward”. He said lawmakers have not come to trigger crises or for confrontation with the government, but for cooperation to approve essential laws. Jamhour said a bloc of MPs will be formed to propose new legislation and call for the cancellation of others, and called on Ghanem to understand the message that as many as 28 MPs did not vote for him.

Meanwhile, five opposition lawmakers filed a draft law calling for a general amnesty for political activists convicted over cases related to freedom of speech. The law was rejected by the previous Assembly, but opposition lawmakers believe that their number has increased and they are capable of forcing it through.