x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Kuwaiti royal survives vote of no confidence

Kuwait's minister of interior, Sheikh Jaber al Khaled al Sabah, comfortably survives an unprecedented vote of no-confidence against a royal in Kuwait's parliament.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's minister of interior, Sheikh Jaber al Khaled al Sabah, comfortably survived an unprecedented vote of no-confidence against a royal in Kuwait's parliament yesterday. The vote was rejected 30-16 in parliament. Two MPs abstained and another was ineligible to vote because he is a member of the cabinet. The motion needed 25 votes to pass. Key posts in Kuwait's cabinet, such as the minister of interior, defence and foreign affairs, are always reserved for members of the royal family, but a royal has not faced a vote of no-confidence in parliament since it was established in 1962. MPs have instigated motions of no-confidence against royals before, but the vote has always been avoided by tactics such as moving the minister to a different post. Many Kuwaitis believe Sheikh Jaber faced MPs this time because he was so confident of their support. One MP, Musallam al Barrak, questioned the minister last week over wasting public funds, spying on parliament and not guarding the election process. After the result was announced, Sheikh Jaber made a short conciliatory speech, but Mr al Barrak remained unswayed. "I would like to thank the speaker and the MPs who supported my stance and I thank those who opposed me," Sheikh Jaber said. "This is exemplary democratic practice. This practice has confirmed that we are all united in the quest for serving the public interest." Mr al Barrak replied: "My conscious is comfortable". He then went on to criticise those who had attacked the interrogation. Many Kuwaitis in the viewing galleries broke into applause when the result was announced; others gave no reaction. The session ended with a raucous argument between Mr al Barrak and Hussein al Qallaf, a Shiite MP who spoke in the minister's defence. Mr al Barrak's supporters chanted from the viewing galleries and threw dozens of black egals, the cord that secures the headdress, from the balcony in support of the tribal leader. Most other members of the assembly swiftly left the chamber. Before the vote, six MPs spoke for about 15 minutes each, three supporting the motion and three against. Part of the debate focused on the minister's approval of a contract worth more than five million Kuwaiti dinars (Dh64m) for a local company to put up advertisements for the election. "We're talking about five million KD that has been wasted; we're talking about embezzlement," Mubarak al Walan said when speaking for the motion. "You tried to hide many facts." Mr al Qallaf said in the minister's defence: "He tried to correct the mistakes. The minister has agreed for the public prosecution to investigate him ? We should wait for the results of the investigation. What if he is innocent? "Some have said there is great corruption in the country, so you blame it all on the minister of the interior." The accusations of spying revolved around the minister's plan to put hi-tech security cameras in front of the parliament building. Some MPs said the cameras could be used to monitor them and people who demonstrate opposite the National Assembly. Daifallah Buramya, a tribal MP, said the real reason for the cameras was to "spy on the people". When Sheikh Jaber laughed at his argument, he strongly criticised him. Some locals accused Kuwait's powerful tribes of instigating the vote in revenge against Sheikh Jaber's clampdown on tribal primaries, which are illegal, in last year's election. About half of parliament's seats are held by politicians from tribes and if they had all supported the motion, the minister would have faced certain dismissal. But some tribal MPs spoke against the motion. One, Shuaib al Muwaizri, said he could easily be against the government, considering that they did not pick anyone from his tribe for the cabinet, but withdrawing confidence in the minister would only serve to "rip national unity apart". He added that parliament needed to focus on passing laws that will improve services. There have been 45 interpellations in Kuwait's parliament and 15 resulted in a motion of no confidence, but no minister has ever been dismissed by MPs. Motions against eight ministers were defeated in the vote and three others resigned before it took place. The cabinet has also resigned twice and the emir dissolved the parliament once to prevent votes of no confidence. The current parliament was elected in May and it will meet for the last time tomorrow before its summer break. jcalderwood@thenational.ae