By B Izzak
KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday inaugurated the National Assembly’s 16th legislative session, urging MPs to honor aspirations of people who elected them. HH the Amir, in his inauguration speech, called upon parliament members to meet the aspirations of people “who placed a huge burden upon their shoulders” for the sake of achieving development.
HH the Amir said the world and region are witnessing critical circumstances, urging MPs to exercise genuine democracy and be role models. “I urge them to place an urgent reform program … to reach sustainable development … which requires active cooperation between the government and National Assembly … and to achieve common benefits,” he said.
HH the Amir said parliament members should “work as one team, shoulder-to-shoulder” in order to have a prosperous and secure nation. The Amir paid tribute to the contributions of late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and reaffirmed keenness to follow his path.
Meanwhile, Marzouq Al-Ghanem yesterday scored a comfortable victory to storm back to the helm of the National Assembly for a third consecutive time, defeating an opposition-led attempt to unseat him, although with solid government support. Ghanem won by 33 votes, presumably including all the 16 members of the Cabinet, against 28 bagged by his only rival MP Bader Al-Humaidi, a former minister. Three ballots were declared invalid as they included two names and one MP did not attend the session.
Although 42 MPs of the 50-member house pledged to support Humaidi, at least 14 of them changed their mind, exactly like what happened in 2016 when at least 28 MPs said they will vote for Ghanem’s rivals, but the speaker ended up winning by an impressive 48 votes from 65, the total number of the house including Cabinet members. One Cabinet member is also an elected MP.
Political analyst Abdullah Al-Shayeji said what happened proves there is no real opposition in Kuwait. “Forty-two MPs pledged to vote for Humaidi for speaker. But he got only 28 votes, which means 14 MPs did not fulfill their pledges,” Shayeji tweeted. “This confirms there is no real opposition in Kuwait. There is no discipline or commitment and coordination is meaningless. Politics is based on individual work and the government remains the most powerful player,” he said.
After taking the speaker’s seat, Ghanem called for a detente. “I extend my hand to all of you … personal disputes will benefit no one,” he said. “During the past few weeks, I became a target of a smear campaign and I decided to remain silent. Let’s open a new page … to achieve the aspirations of the Kuwaiti people,” Ghanem appealed.
Humaidi however slammed the government for backing Ghanem. “I feel the government was not neutral and it stood against the will of the people,” he said. MP Saud Buslaib criticized the government for taking part in the speaker’s election, but Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Mubarak Al-Harees said the government invoked its constitutional right to vote.
MP Hassan Jowhar said the Kuwaiti people are frustrated at the situation, adding that the people’s frustration increased after the government’s message in the speaker’s election. Apparently sensing that some of the lawmakers in the opposition gathering may change their mind, opposition MPs pressed but in vain to make the voting public.
As Ghanem got the winning vote, he got up from his seat and threw his fists in the air as the gallery broke out in thunderous applause. As a result, the chair of the session, MP Hamad Al-Harshani, ordered the guards to remove visitors from the chamber. MP Ahmad Al-Shuhoumi, another pro-government lawmaker, won the deputy speaker’s post, defeating Jowhar by 41 votes to 19.
But the opposition group won the consolation posts of the Assembly secretary and supervisor, which went to MPs Farz Al-Mutairi and Osama Al-Shaheen respectively. The Assembly postponed the election of permanent committees until next week.