Kuwait's Arab Spring Approaches As Opposition Ups Demands

Article Summary
Kuwait’s opposition is growing increasingly bellicose in its attempts to challenge the ruling family. An opposition meeting earlier this week resulted in a platform that called for a “constitutional emirate,” according to a report by Hamad al-Jasser. If implemented, it would radically alter the country’s constitution and government.

In a meeting held on Tuesday [June 26] that brought together its most prominent supporters, Kuwait’s opposition upped its political demands and declared that it was adopting a reform program that would lead to a “constitutional emirate” and an elected government. The formation of such a government would necessitate constitutional amendments as the current constitution gives the reigning prince the sole right to form a government.

Some members of the National Assembly, particularly prominent opposition activist Musallam al-Barrak, harshly criticized the national Guard’s Deputy Chief, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad, half-brother to Prince Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, accusing him of heading a “secret government that was wreaking havoc on Kuwait.”

Making references to December 2010 incident in which parliamentarians were beaten in front of Representative Jamaan al-Harbash’s office, Barrak said that “all [the country’s]leaders have pledged allegiance to [Sheikh Mishal] who was responsible for oppressing the people and retrograding the constitution.” He vowed that the opposition would have Sheikh Mishal removed from office at the upcoming National Assembly meeting.

Nearly 10,000 people participated in the demonstration which the opposition called for under the slogan “we will not surrender.” The demonstration was planned in response to recent political developments in Kuwait, including the constitutional court’s decision to dissolve the current parliament and reinstate the parliament elected in 2009, where a majority supported the regime. It was also a reaction to the fact that nine parliamentarians and sixty activists are being tried for “storming parliament,” charges that the opposition considers “malicious” and baseless. During the gathering, the parliamentarians called for new elections and demanded that the prince dissolve the 2009 parliament.

MP Faisal al-Mussallam confirmed that opposition groups had agreed on adopting a common platform for the upcoming elections, one calling for comprehensive constitutional and legislative reforms. Obaid al-Wasimi, a member of the dissolved parliament, said that the government must accept basic constitutional reforms that would lead to the formation of an elected government and a true parliamentary system.

The opposition’s new attachment to the idea of a “constitutional emirate” is considered an important development in its confrontation with the regime.  Just two weeks ago, only opposition youth espoused such an idea. This step would also require significant changes to the 1962 constitution, which gives the prince alone the authority to appoint a prime minister select the members of the government. The opposition is now demanding that this be carried out through a vote, as is the case in all western democracies.

Observers think that the manner in which the opposition intensified its demands, as well as the criticism aimed at Sheikh Mishal, one of the ruling families most powerful figures, serve as messages to the regime. The opposition is making it clear that it will not give up any of the gains it achieved in the past months, which include winning 35 seats in the 50 seat National Assembly. It also pledges not to cease pursuing matters of corruption, which include the two examples of the “bank deposit” affair, which the opposition considers proof of bribes given by the regime to loyalist members of parliament and the “foreign remittance” affair, in which the opposition accuses former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed of suspiciously transferring a quarter of a billion dollars to foreign accounts.

Found in: constitutional emirate, kuwait prince, kuwait opposition, kuwait constitution, kuwait crisis, kuwait

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using them you accept our use of cookies. Learn more... X