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Cabinet resigns, new Assembly meets Aug 6
July 29, 2013, 11:16 am
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The Cabinet yesterday submitted its resignation to HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah following the National Assembly election as required under the Kuwaiti constitution. The announcement came after the Cabinet held an extraordinary session to assess the outcome of the polls. It also approved an Amiri decree setting Aug 6 as the date for the Assembly to convene for the first time. The Amir later in the day issued the decree.

Under the constitution, the new Assembly must hold its inaugural session two weeks after the declaration of results, but the government set an early date to avoid clashing with the Eid Al-Fitr holidays expected to start on Aug 8. The Assembly is then expected to go on summer recess until the end of October. The Amir is expected to accept the government’s resignation soon and then will hold customary consultations ahead of naming the new prime minister who could be the outgoing premier Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah or any other member of the ruling family. The new Cabinet must be ready before parliament meets.

In developments related to the election, two candidates – speaker of the scrapped Assembly Ali Al-Rashed and his rival for the post Salafist Ali Al-Omair – have already announced plans to contest the speaker’s post, while reports said liberal MP Marzouk Al-Ghanem is also expected to contest. The government’s votes will play a pivotal role in deciding the race. The speaker, deputy speaker and various Assembly panels will be formed in the inaugural session. Three other MPs – Adnan Abdulsamad, Mohammad Al-Jabri and Kamel Al-Awadhi – have said they will contest the post of deputy speaker while the deputy speaker in the scrapped assembly MP Mubarak Al-Khrainej is also expected to enter the race.

The results of the Assembly elections, the second in under eight months, appear to have dealt a heavy blow to radicals on both the Shiite and Sunni sides. Shiite members Abdulhameed Dashti, Khaled Al-Shatti and Adnan Al-Mutawa, accused of raising sectarian issues in the previous house, lost their seats. Khaled Al-Shulaimi and Hammad Al-Dossari, both Sunni radicals and accused of making sectarian statements, also lost.

This key development has left much more moderate Shiite and Sunni lawmakers in the new house. But the main losers are the Shiite minority who were reduced to just eight seats, five of them from the first constituency, down from a record 17 in the scrapped Assembly. The Shiite National Islamic Alliance lost three of its five seats. Liberals won at least two seats in Rakan Al-Nasef, a newcomer, and former MP Faisal Al-Shaye in the third constituency. MP Ghanem is expected to join them to form the core of a liberal bloc in the Assembly. They could be joined by Riyadh Al-Adasani and Abdullah Al-Turaiji, who were members of the opposition but decided to run in the election. Sunni Islamists improved slightly taking about seven seats along with supporters but all of them are pro-government Salafists.

The most impressive change however took place in the tribal fourth and fifth constituencies with major tribes – which used to bag most of the seats – sharply curtailed. The Awazem, Kuwait’s largest tribe, managed to win five seats from around seven in the past. The Mutairis and Rasheedi, who used to win 4-5 seats, managed just two each while the Ajmans, which normally won 4-5 seats, bagged just one seat. On the contrary, smaller tribes and groups which normally won no seats under the previous system, managed to win seats this time with comfortable margins. The Enezi won three seats against 1-2 in the past, Sulaibi bagged two against nothing in the past, and the Kandaris won a seat in the fifth district where they had never won.

Voter turnout was much higher than anticipated. Based on figures by the information ministry, turnout was 52.5 percent compared to just under 40 percent in the previous polls, which is a record low. Kuwait’s average turnout is around 65 percent. Other key losers include Nabil Al-Fadhl, Abdullah Mayouf and Ahmad Al-Mulaifi from the third constituency. They also include former MP Abdullah Al-Roumi from the first constituency and Khaled Al-Shulaimi from the fourth.

In a related development, member of the scrapped Assembly Dashti, who came in the 11th spot in the first constituency, said he will file two petitions against the election to the constitutional court. Former opposition MP Mubarak Al-Waalan branded the new Assembly as entirely pro-government. “I think that the main success in this election is the failure of Shiite and Sunni radicals to get re-elected,” director of Etijahat Research and Studies Centre Talal Al-Kashti said.

“The composition of this parliament is representative of various components of the Kuwaiti society. Accordingly, I believe it will be very quiet … and will cooperate with the government,” said Kashti. “The election results are surprising as a number of veterans lost their seats in favour of young MPs. There was a big retreat for controversial figures,” political analyst Madhi Al-Khamees wrote on his Twitter account. Kashti said unlike the previous six parliaments which were dissolved due to political disputes, “it looks promising this parliament could complete its four-year term”.

“The large number of new MPs gives hope that a National Assembly with greater popular backing can find a way of improving relations with the government,” said Gulf expert Kristian Ulrichsen, at the US-based Baker Institute for Public Policy, referring to a 12 percent higher turnout than last time. “The increased turnout signals that many Kuwaitis are ready to put the recent past behind them and move forward,” Ulrichsen said.

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