BEIRUT

Middle East

Kuwait picks outgoing prime minister to form new Cabinet

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s emir asked outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah Thursday to form a new government, state news agency KUNA said, in a move that may ease a political crisis.

Sheikh Jaber must now select a 15-member Cabinet, after which analysts expect Kuwait’s ruler to dissolve parliament in order to allow fresh elections, widely expected to be held after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which starts around July 19.

The previous government, also headed by Sheikh Jaber, resigned last month after Kuwait’s constitutional court dissolved a parliament dominated by Islamist-led opposition lawmakers and reinstated its more government-friendly predecessor instead.

The government took its oath of office in front of the dissolved parliament, meaning its activities had technically become unconstitutional and hence had to step down.

The reappointment of Sheikh Jaber was a widely expected move and the new Cabinet is unlikely to be different from the previous one, analysts and lawmakers said.

“Probably there will not be new ministers ... because this was just an exceptional decision to resolve the problem,” said lawmaker Saleh Ashour.

The new Cabinet should take an oath of office at the reinstated parliament.

Such a move could prove difficult as majority of the 50-elected-member assembly have said they are boycotting the reinstated parliament, which was tarnished by corruption allegations, analysts said.

“The most likely scenario is that the reinstated parliament would not be able to convene in the absence of a quorum, then the emir will have to dissolve parliament and new parliamentary elections will be held,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ghanem al-Najjar.

The last such elections in the United States-allied OPEC oil producer were in February.

Analysts said a new Cabinet could be formed by next week, though there is no deadline for government formation in Kuwait’s constitution and it could drag on for longer than that.

“All political parties should ... allow time to solve this situation according to the correct legal procedures and then a new election can be held,” said analyst Shamlan al-Issa.

Kuwait has been little affected by the 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.

The country has seen eight governments come and go in just six years due to bickering between the parliament and Cabinet, hindering economic reforms.

During their four months in parliament, opposition lawmakers emboldened by their success at the polls repeatedly sought to question Cabinet members, forcing the resignation of two, including the finance minister.

Pro-government MPs have been demanding the reinstated assembly, which the emir dissolved in December last year after months of infighting with the government, be allowed to finish its term, while opponents have threatened to block any attempt to convene it.

Key Cabinet posts are held by ruling family members and emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has the right to dissolve or suspend parliament at will.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 06, 2012, on page 8.

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