Once again: grilling

By: Jon Nordenson

Less than a month has passed since the parliamentary elections, and barely a week since the inaugural session of the new Assembly. But still: a “grilling” request has been filed against a Sabah-member of the cabinet, this time by MPMuslim al-Barak of the Popular Action Bloc (كتلة العمل الشعبي ).

As I have written earlier, ”grilling” (interpellate, or in arabic:استجواب )is a constitutional right of Kuwaiti MPs to question cabinet ministers in parliament, and may in turn lead to a vote of no confidence. With the government wanting to avoid the humiliation of such a process, interpellations – especially when directed at cabinet members from the ruling a-Sabah family – have notoriously led to the cabinet resigning, or the Emir dissolving parliament. This, in turn, has left Kuwait in a status of permanent political crisis.

The results of the latest parliamentary election, held on May 16th, have been said to be a reaction to this crisis, with the electorate demanding stability and development rather than endless political quarrels. Still, the same electorate re-elected three of the five Islamist MPs who filed requests to interpellate ministers in the last parliament – thereby earning the nickname “crisis MPs” – as well as al-Barak, who made it perfectly clear during the election campaign that he would request to interpellate Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, were the Minister to be re-appointed.

True to his word, al-Barak filed the request on June 8th, accusing the Minister of “squandering public funds, failure to prevent vote-buying and ordering the installation of cameras to spy on public rallies” (Kuwait Times, June 9th 2009). The big question, then, is of course: what will the government and the Emir do?

Following the election, the Emir called for cooperation between the cabinet and the parliament, and for an end to the ongoing crisis. Still, a new cabinet was appointed that contained names bound to cause the opposite. As mentioned above, grillings against Sabah-members of the cabinet has marked a red line for previous parliaments. However, it would seem rather absurd if the government were to resign, or the parliament to be dissolved, approximately three weeks after the election. From this point of view, we might be witnessing a rather momentous challenge to Kuwait`s democratic project.

On the other hand, the “grilling” request may never go so far. The government may demand to refer the request to the constitutional court to verify whether or not it is in line with the constitution. The government may also demand that the debate in parliament on the request will be held behind closed doors.

For the moment, the request is scheduled to be debated in the parliamentary session on June 23rd. If the debate takes place, the outcome may be rather grim.

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