x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Kuwait swears in new government after weeks of political paralysis

Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al Sabah choosese six new faces out of 16, as opponents complain that ministers that caused trouble which led to last government's resignation have been brought back.

KUWAIT CITY // A 16-member government was sworn in yesterday, ending a political paralysis in Kuwait that began when previous ministers collectively resigned over a dispute with parliament in March.

Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al Sabah, who had been reappointed as prime minister last month, chose four other members of the royal family to resume their posts in key ministries. Six new faces were drafted into the new government and six others that had served in the last cabinet were dropped.

"There's no radical change. It's like everybody expected," said Shamlan Alessa, a political scientist at Kuwait University. "The ministers that caused the whole trouble were brought back."

The government resigned on March 31 after members of parliament tried to question three royal ministers. Of the three, only Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah al Sabah, who had held the portfolios of oil and information, was replaced.

Mohammed al Baseeri, a politician with links to an Islamist political group known as the Islamic Constitutional Movement who was the previous minister of communication, will head the ministry of oil. Sami al Nesef is the new minister of information.

Sheikh Ahmed "couldn't handle" both roles in the previous government, Mr Alessa said.

Ali al Omair, an MP for the Islamic Salafi Alliance was offered the portfolio of oil but refused, the Kuwaiti online news service Alaan reported.

Yesterday, Sheikh Nasser asked for the government and the parliament to co-operate, but his calls for reconciliation were not reciprocated by some members of the house. Khaled al Tahous, an MP, threatened to file a motion to question the prime minister tomorrow.

Ali al Rasheed, a liberal, pro-government MP, replaced Roudhan al Roudhan as the minister of state for cabinet affairs, and Ahmed al Mulaifi, an independent, replaced Moudhi al Humoud as the minister of education.

The replacement of Ms al Humoud means Amani Buresli, who took over from Ahmed al Haroun as the minister of commerce and industry, will be the only woman in the cabinet.

Lulwa Saleh al Mulla, the general secretary of Kuwait Woman's Society, said: "We are not satisfied with the percentage of women in the government. We were aiming for two or more."

Ms al Mulla said the replacement of Ms al Humoud was "a bad loss" because she was more qualified than Mr al Mulaifi for the post. She believes she was replaced to placate Islamists, many of whom were opposed to a liberal woman heading the ministry of education.

The ministers of health, social affairs and labour, finance and public works were all reappointed to their positions.

"We were hoping for younger, educated ministers," Ms al Mulla said. "It's very depressing, very, very depressing."

jcalderwood@thenational.ae