Kuwait delays swearing in cabinet after MPs' boycott

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 31, 2012 8:01 AM
Kuwait delays swearing in cabinet after MPs' boycott

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's parliament failed to swear in a new cabinet on Tuesday after lawmakers boycotted the session, making the dissolution of the assembly likely and throwing the country into more political upheaval.

At the heart of the dispute is a ruling by a constitutional court in June which effectively dissolved a parliament dominated by opposition Islamists and reinstated its more government-friendly predecessor, elected in 2009.

Only five members of the 50-seat assembly and five ministers from the 15-member new cabinet turned up on Tuesday and National Assembly speaker Jassim al-Kharafi was forced to postpone the session.

"I will call the meeting next week and if there is a lack of quorum I will take this matter to his highness the emir to take whatever action he sees as appropriate," Kharafi said.

Analysts expect that Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, will have to dissolve parliament and call for new elections some time after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in the second half of August. The last elections were in February.

The government encouraged MPs to skip the session so that the parliament can be dissolved, MP Salwa al-Jassar told state news agency KUNA. Opposition lawmkers had already said they would boycott the session in protest at the parliament they say is illegitimate.

The new parliament was supposed to meet for the first time on Tuesday and swear in a cabinet. The move to reinstate the old parliament infuriated Kuwaiti opposition politicians who said it had been tarnished by corruption allegations.

The delay is the latest twist in a standoff between the hand-picked government and elected assembly.

Political turmoil is not new to Kuwait, which has seen eight governments come and go in just six years. The infighting has held up legislation and investment, turning the oil-producing country into a laggard.

Kuwait, a U.S. ally and one of the world's richest countries per capita, is home to an outspoken parliament with legislative powers but the ruling al-Sabah family maintains a firm grip on state affairs.

Main cabinet posts are held by ruling family members and the 83-year-old emir has the final say in politics.

Kuwait has not experienced the kind of popular uprisings that have swept the Arab region since last year but tensions have grown between the cabinet and opposition lawmakers pushing for a say in government.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Harby, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Angus MacSwan)