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19-06-2012 - Kuwait Times

Kuwaiti amir suspends National Assembly for one month

In an unprecedented and unexpected decision, HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah yesterday issued a decree to suspend the National Assembly for one month in a bid to give time for the government and MPs to prepare strong grounds for cooperation.

Kuwait's National Assembly has never been suspended in this way since parliamentary life came to Kuwait half a century ago, but it was dissolved without holding elections twice - in 1976 for five years and in 1986 for six years - in what is locally known as an "unconstitutional dissolution".

The Assembly was also dissolved "constitutionally" on five occasions, the last four since 2006 due to continued political disputes between the government and the opposition.

The government said that the temporary suspension was necessary to prepare a political environment for cooperation between the government and MPs which has passed through turmoil since the Feb 2 snap elections in which the opposition scored a massive victory to control a comfortable majority in the house.

The Amiri decree was based on article 106 of the constitution which states that "the Amir may, by a decree, adjourn the meetings of the National Assembly for a period not exceeding one month". It also states that the suspension can be repeated or extended only once but with the approval of parliament and cannot be repeated again in the same term.

Opposition MPs acknowledged the constitutional right of the Amir to suspend the Assembly for a month, but many warned against perceived attempts to push for dissolving the Assembly, while others said it was a move to deal with problems within the Cabinet. MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said that certain quarters are pushing for dissolving the Assembly, adding that "their problem is not with the National Assembly but with the people who elected the MPs".

MP Bader Al-Dahoum insisted that if the Assembly is dissolved, "we will mobilize our supporters to the Determination Square" opposite the Assembly, in reference to street protests that forced the previous prime minister and his government to resign in November.

MP Musallam Al-Barrak also insisted that the suspension is the constitutional right of the Amir, but added that the move has nothing to do with the Assembly or the majority. He said the move appears to be aimed at providing the government sufficient time to resolve the deadlock in its formation after the resignation of two ministers.

Tension between the government and the Assembly has escalated in the past few days after the opposition forced two ministers to resign from the Cabinet that was formed just four months ago.

Finance minister Mustafa Al-Shamali was forced to step down late May after a marathon grilling in which he was accused of squandering public funds. Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Ahmad Al-Rujaib also quit after two opposition MPs filed to question him for alleged irregularities.

Also, MPs from the pro-government minority have grilled the prime minister and the ministers of interior and information, all senior members of the Al-Sabah ruling family.

Also, MP Mohammad Al-Juwaihel, a member of the minority, filed a second request to grill the interior minister and the debate was supposed to take place today, but it has now been postponed.

Pro-government MP Nabeel Al-Fadhl meanwhile held the parliamentary majority responsible for the suspension, charging that the opposition MPs have continued to blackmail the government and have hijacked the Assembly.

Constitutional experts and MPs however differed on what should be suspended. State Minister for Housing and National Assembly Affairs Shuaib Al-Muwaizri said the suspension only applies to Assembly sessions and not to meetings of committees and other functions.

Some MPs said that the suspension means that the Assembly will not meet again this term and will come back only in October. Others insisted that it will resume normal meetings after the one-month suspension with MP Harbash vowing that sessions will be held every week instead of bi-monthly.

Also, legal experts differed on whether the lawmakers will keep their parliamentary immunity or not, with the majority of them saying they will lose the immunity and accordingly can be questioned and tried in court.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition majority said that a meeting of the bloc will be held today to review the latest developments.

 

Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights