Assembly panel says deputy speaker’s election incorrect

MP Adasani to grill housing minister over violations

KUWAIT: The National Assembly’s legal and legislative committee ruled yesterday that the election of deputy speaker Essa Al-Kandari was illegal and did not follow procedures specified in the constitution and the Assembly charter. The committee’s decision was taken by three votes against two, with one abstention. Now the issue goes to the Assembly, which is expected to decide to refer the issue to the constitutional court for a mandatory decision.

On the first day of the new Assembly last month, Kandari was declared elected as deputy speaker after defeating his only competitor, Islamist opposition MP Jamaan Al-Harbash, by a single vote. But Kandari’s win came after a second round of voting that many legal experts say was unnecessary and illegal. In the first round of voting, Harbash secured 32 votes against Kandari’s 31, with one ballot empty. The election was judged by Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem as unconstitutional, since Harbash failed to get the simple majority of the 64 members present, which is 33.

But Harbash protested that according to a constitutional court ruling in 1996, the empty ballot should have been discarded from the total members present and the number should have become 63, which means that he had secured the simple majority needed (32 votes) and should have been declared the deputy speaker.

Ghanem however said that since the 1996 ruling, the Assembly charter had been amended and it stipulates that even the empty ballot should be counted as part of members present, and accordingly ruled that Harbash did not get the required simple majority of votes and ordered a revote, in which Kandari won by a single vote. Kandari later said that the decision of the committee is not the final word on the issue, which will be decided by the constitutional court. Member of the panel MP Khaled Al-Shatti also said that the decision was politically-motivated and the final say on the issue will be by the constitutional court.

Also, the legal committee approved nine proposals to amend the nationality law of 1959. The amendments basically prevent the government from revoking the citizenship of any Kuwaiti without a final court verdict. The amendments were proposed by opposition MPs angry after the government revoked two years ago the citizenship of several opposition figures and members of their families. The committee also approved a draft law calling to abolish the DNA testing law that was passed virtually without debate by the previous pro-government Assembly.

In another development, opposition MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said yesterday that he plans to file to grill State Minister for Housing Yasser Abul next week over alleged violations in a large number of housing projects. Adasani accused the minister of not doing enough to speed up housing projects, saying that the ministry had KD 4 billion at its disposal but spent only 16 percent of it on some of the 45 projects underway. He also charged that the minister is responsible for the bad selection of contractors and failing to monitor them, resulting in slow and incompetent implementation and accidents.

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Youth Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud Al-Sabah said yesterday Kuwait has extended all cooperation with the International Olympic Committee within the framework of the constitution and the law with regards to lifting the suspension on Kuwaiti sports. He said after attending a meeting of the Assembly’s sports and youth committee that the IOC is responsible to listen to the wishes of the Kuwaiti government and people to lift the suspension temporarily until the laws have been amended.

But MP Hamdan Al-Azemi called on the minister to resign immediately after the Kuwaiti football team was banned from taking part in the qualifying rounds of the Asia Cup on Jan 11. The lawmaker accused the minister and the government of ignoring the issue of lifting the suspension and being engaged in settling political and personal scores.

By B Izzak

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