The decision to reinstate the former speaker of parliament, who comes from an elite merchant family, has angered new lawmakers who are skeptical of the country’s corruption and patronage system.
The Kuwaiti cabinet tendered its resignation on Tuesday, the latest development in a cycle of clashes between the government and lawmakers that has long convulsed the Sheikhdom with the Gulf’s strongest parliament.
The move, while not surprisingly after around 30 lawmakers supported a no-confidence motion against the government this month, reveals how the country’s politics have caused instability, lowered public confidence. and exacerbated the oil-rich state’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Ministers resigned after newly elected members of parliament, more than 60% of them new faces, toasted the prime minister in protest against his new cabinet appointments. The decision to reinstate the former Speaker of Parliament, who comes from an elite merchant family, has angered new lawmakers skeptical of the country’s corruption and patronage system.
The prime minister must now submit the resignations to the country’s ruling emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who is expected to broadly accept them.
During their questioning of Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al Sabah last week, lawmakers accused him of endowing the Cabinet with “provocative and unqualified members”, according to local media.
Other pain points included the choices of the Home Secretary and the Minister of Justice, who opposed a Kuwait statelessness bill that parliament hoped to pass.
Tensions boiled over during last week’s parliamentary session, with footage showing matches of screaming and physical brawls in the chamber.
Security guards struggled to restrain lawmakers wearing traditional headdresses and dresses as they climbed rows of chairs, yelling at supporters and friends of the speaker of parliament.
“Lawmakers are trying to reform, but they feel their hands are tied because the government keeps bringing back the same old faces,” said Mohammed al-Yousef, an independent Kuwaiti political analyst. “The system is designed to create a dead end.”
The resignation of the government raises fears that the emir could dissolve parliament and force a second election in as many months. It would not be the first time.
Kuwait’s unusual combination of an emir-appointed government and an elected parliament often gives rise to disputes that analysts say hamper the country’s economic and social progress.
Parliament can introduce laws and question ministers, though the country’s emir retains ultimate authority and members of the ruling family hold important positions.
Last year, the Moody’s rating agency downgraded Kuwait for the first time in its history as the coronavirus pandemic and falling oil prices left a hole in the country’s finances.
Even with the cash flow quickly depleting, the government has no legal framework for deficit spending beyond its current limit of $ 33 billion without parliamentary approval. Lawmakers have fiercely opposed increasing the debt ceiling, fearing that the money could be plundered because of corruption.