x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rally against Kuwait PM's reappointment sees poor turnout

Demonstration held against appointment of Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al Sabah as prime minister of Kuwait for the seventh consecutive time.

KUWAIT CITY // A protest against the prime minister this week failed to attract a large crowd after Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al Sabah was appointed to the post for the seventh consecutive time.

Sheikh Nasser was reappointed by the emir, Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah, on Tuesday, five days after the government resigned to prevent ministers from facing questions in parliament.

"We can't accept this. We didn't expect it," said a member of the youth group Kafi, requesting anonymity, at the protest in the "Square of Change" on Tuesday. Kafi is one of several organisations, supported by opposition members of parliament, which have called for a new prime minister at public rallies since March.

"They're taking a big chance by appointing him for the seventh time," the protester said. The groups want a new prime minister to put a stop to the country's economic decline, he said. Some of the protests have attracted several hundred supporters, but on Tuesday, just two dozen Kuwaitis gathered in the square. "We have a low turnout because this wasn't planned," another member of Kafi, who also asked to remain anonymous, said, adding that the media's critical treatment of protesters has put people off.

Sheikh Nasser survived a vote of non-cooperation in December by a narrow margin and this week, several parliamentarians welcomed his return. Hussein al Qallaf, a Shiite MP, said Kuwaitis who are loyal to the country will "obey and hail" the reappointed head of the cabinet.

Yesterday, opposition politicians gave signs that the new government could be heading for trouble. Waleed al Tabtabae, an MP, said two requests to question the prime minister will be filed when ministers are sworn in, and the Islamic Constitutional Movement, an Islamist political group, said it would decline any request to participate in the cabinet.

Faisal al Muslim, another opposition MP, called on Tuesday for Sheikh Nasser to turn down the post. He said the assembly's problems will not be solved unless the constitution is reformed "to ensure the government stems from the parliament".

Only one minister of the cabinet that Sheikh Nasser will select is required to be a member of the 50-seat elected chamber.

Shamlan Alessa, a political scientist at Kuwait University, believes the next parliament will fail unless the constitution is changed to limit the parliamentarians' power to question ministers.

"The major problem" is that the government does not have a majority of support in the assembly and it convinces opposition MPs to vote in its favour through "bribes or political favours", Mr Alessa said.

"You have a system where, because of oil wealth, the government tries to please everybody at the expense of democracy," he said. "This is tragic. It needs drastic change."