x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Government of Kuwait hands in its resignation

Latest resignations make the sixth cabinet led by Kuwaiti Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed al Ahmad Al Sabah to quit since he was named five years ago.

Kuwait's government resigned today, sparking a fresh crisis, as opposition MPs stepped up calls for a change of prime minister.

The development, unrelated to revolts in the Arab world, marked the sixth cabinet led by Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed al Ahmad Al Sabah to resign since he was named five years ago.

Three parliaments have been dissolved in the emirate over the same period.

The state minister for cabinet affairs, Rudhan al Rudhan, told the state news agency, KUNA: ""The Kuwaiti cabinet submitted its resignation today at an extraordinary meeting."

With the opposition calling for a change of prime minister on the grounds mainly of incompetence, the emir, Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad Al Sabah, has the sole right under Kuwaiti law to select the prime minister.

Sheikh Sabah must first decide whether to accept the government's resignation, and then, if so, name Sheikh Nasser or another figure to form a new cabinet.

The resignations come after MPs filed petitions to question in parliament three ministers who are senior members of Kuwait's Al Sabah ruling family over a variety of allegations including corruption and failure to perform duty.

Liberal MPs Adel al Saraawi and Marzouk al Ghanem filed last week to grill Kuwait's deputy premier for economic affairs, Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, over allegations of corruption in contracts worth $900 million.

Earlier this week, Shiite MP Faisal al Duwaisan filed to quiz Information and Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al-Sabah. Another MP, Saleh Ashour, also Shiite, demanded to grill Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al Sabah.

The cabinet's latest resignation also coincides with an opposition campaign for the resignation and replacement of the prime minister, a nephew of the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah.

Several opposition MPs called on the emir today to appoint a new prime minister, accusing Sheikh Nasser, who is in his early 70s, of failing to lead Kuwait despite huge financial surpluses on the back of high oil prices.

Faisal al Muslim, an Islamist, said: "We want a new government with a new prime minister charting a new course. If Sheikh Nasser is retained, all the problems will return and the crisis will be prolonged." Mussallam al Barrak, spokesman for the opposition Popular Action Bloc, said he would file a motion to question Sheikh Nasser himself if he is named to form the next government.

"The right start is to have a new prime minister. Without this it will be useless to talk about reform," Mr al Barrak told reporters.

"Sheikh Nasser has failed in every issue he has handled. If the prime minister insists on remaining in his post, the situation in Kuwait will continue to deteriorate," he said.

Mr al Muslim said that governments led by Sheikh Nasser had over the past five years spent about $330 billion but without any major impact on development in Kuwait, which has 1.15 million nationals out of a 2.4-million population.

Kuwait's last poll, brought forward due to an earlier political crisis, was held in May 2009. The country sits on about 10 per cent of global crude reserves and currently pumps 2.3 million barrels a day.