x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Protesters mount pressure on Kuwaiti prime minister to quit

Protesters mount pressure on the Kuwaiti prime minister to resign, after demonstration held by a group formed to address political crisis.

Abdullah al Nibari, a former MP, lent his support to demonstrators in Kuwait City yesterday.
Abdullah al Nibari, a former MP, lent his support to demonstrators in Kuwait City yesterday.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwaitis piled more pressure on their embattled prime minister yesterday by demanding his resignation at a protest in front of Parliament. The protest, which was organised by a recently formed group of citizens called "Go. We deserve better", was attended by about 100 people on a patch of grassland sandwiched between the national assembly and the sea known as Demonstration Square.

The policemen present there did not interfere with the proceedings. Jawad Akbar, one of the event's organisers, said the group was formed in response to the political crisis dogging the country since Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Ahmed Al Sabah was first appointed prime minister in 2006. Since that time, he has headed six governments because of cabinet resignations and dissolutions of the assembly. "It's the first time in history a group of people have spoken freely to ask the prime minister to resign," Mr Akbar said.

"He's a likeable and loveable person. However, he does not have the skills to run the government at this time." The emir is protected from criticism by the law in Kuwait, but the prime minister, who is the ruler's nephew, is not. "With all due respect to him and the choices of the emir, Kuwait deserves better," Mr Akbar said. "He does not have the confidence to face the parliament with his views."

Prominent liberals and Islamists attended the event. One former liberal MP, Abdullah al Nibari, addressed the crowd in front of a large white banner with a red circle and a diagonal line cutting through it in the style of a "no smoking" sign. "Today we take our challenge to a higher level. It is the first time we have challenged the prime minister. This is a brave initiative," Mr al Nibari said. "We are questioning the prime minister and the government for not adhering to the law in the issues such as cheques and expenses."

An MP filed a request to interpolate the prime minister over the issuance of a 200,000 Kuwaiti Dinar (Dh2.6 million) cheque to a former MP and the misuse of public funds on Sunday, causing a crisis similar to the one which brought the last parliament down. Mr al Nibari said that although he wanted constructive dialogue before judging on this issue, there was "a corrupt network in the country. It has so many faces".

One of the spectators at the event, Abdulmohsen al Hamad, said: "Because of what's happened in the past few years, the prime minister has to resign. There have been scandals in all areas of life - the environment, the economy - you name it." "The prime minister is not communicating with us. He has a press conference maybe once a year, but we want to see his rationale and thinking." Despite his displeasure with the prime minister, Mr al Hamad said the fact that Kuwaitis can hold political demonstrations against their leaders in front of the parliament was "historical"."

"This is the beginning of a true democracy," he said. The group advertised the event on its blog and plans to hold more protests in other areas in Kuwait. jcalderwood@thenational.ae