Kuwaiti Islamists take a hit in parliament

      Published on Monday, 25 March , 2019      489 Views     
Kuwaiti Islamists take a hit in parliament

Kuwait’s Salafist-Muslim Brotherhood alliance suffered substantial losses in the country’s parliamentary elections, reflecting a move away from ideological agendas and the erosion of the Brotherhood’s influence in Kuwaiti politics.

In the by-election for two seats in Kuwait’s National Assembly, independent candidate Badr al-Mulla,

a professor of civil law, defeated the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamad al-Matar, 4,657-4,616; while lawyer, Abdullah al-Kandari, another independent candidate, won over Salafist candidate Ammar al-Ajami, 6,705-5,173.

Islamist MPs Waleed al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan al-Harbash had vacated their seats, mandating by-elections in the constituencies.

The road to unseating the Islamist MPs had been arduous and included strenuous efforts to block holding them responsible for what became known in Kuwait as the “National Assembly storming.”

In 2011, protesters charged parliament after MPs were denied the right to question Kuwait Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah over corruption allegations. The case was mired in Kuwait’s complex court system for years but, in November 2017, the Court of Cassation sentenced 13 individuals, including Tabtabaei and Harbash, to prison.

However, 42-month jail terms handed to Tabtabaei and Harbash did not strip them of their seats in the National Assembly and other Islamist MPs sought a pardon from Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.

It wasn’t until January 30 that the National Assembly vacated Tabtabaei’s and Harbash’s parliamentary seats, citing the assembly’s bylaws, and by-elections were ordered.

The Kuwait parliament, formed in 1962, is the oldest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); however, pro-government lawmakers control it and the ultimate power remains with the emir.

Political parties in the traditional sense are banned in Kuwait, making the opposition in parliament an unofficial marriage of convenience between segments of Kuwaiti society often with contradicting political inclinations, a mix of liberals, nationalist and conservative Islamists mainly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In recent years, with Kuwait and the entire GCC implementing austerity measures, the opposition in the National Assembly found a cause to exploit, usually at the expense of members of the government’s cabinet appointed by the emir, who are summoned to parliament for questioning.

The threat of questioning some officials led Sheikh Sabah to dissolve parliament on several occasions.

“I will not allow turning the blessing of democracy, which we are under the shade of, into a curse that threatens the stability of our country, destroys construction and stands in the way of achievement,” Sheikh Sabah said in a speech last October.

“Why this insistence on questioning the prime minister in matters that fall under the responsibility of other ministers? This violates the constitution and the status of the National Assembly,” Al-Qabas newspaper quoted the emir as saying.

Sheikh Sabah’s assessment of parliament was echoed by hundreds of Kuwaitis taking to Twitter to express rejection of parliament practices, with Arabic hashtag “With the dissolution of the National Assembly.”

The Kuwaiti Constitution states that the National Assembly is made up of 50 elected seats,

not including 16 appointed cabinet ministers by the emir. After the latest elections, Kuwait’s Islamist parliamentary opposition, with 15 parliamentary seats, will still have difficulty pushing its agenda.

Category Government | 2019/03/25 latest update at 11:00 PM
Source : The Arab Weekly | Photocredit : Google
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