Omar Hasan, AFP
Last updated: 25 October, 2011

Kuwait emir urges MPs and government to end feuding

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on Tuesday urged MPs and the government to end their bitter feuding, saying opposition protests have “exceeded all limits.”

“I am pained by the suffering of our nation from the continuous disputes between parliament and the government,” the emir said in a speech delivered at the opening of a new parliamentary session.

“We have to end our disputes and focus on the development of the country… We have to keep following the dangerous events taking place around us,” he said, in reference to the uprisings sweeping several Arab countries.

After the emir’s departure, some 17 opposition lawmakers walked out of the chamber and boycotted the election of parliamentary committees in protest over the presence of lawmakers tainted by allegations of corruption.

Islamist opposition MP Mohammad Hayef told reporters the participation of MPs suspected of corruption “invalidates their decisions” and could tarnish parliament’s image.

Tuesday’s opening session was disrupted on several occasions by opposition MPs and a group of school teachers who came to demand that MPs vote on a bill to raise their salaries.

The oil-rich Gulf state has been rocked by almost non-stop crises between the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and the opposition, which has been demanding his removal.

Since the appointment of Sheikh Nasser in February 2006, six cabinets have resigned and parliament was dissolved three times.

Tensions have risen in recent months after an alleged graft scandal involving some 15 pro-government MPs in the 50-member parliament surfaced, with the opposition staging huge rallies demanding the dismissal of the premier.

The public prosecutor has launched an investigation into the lawmakers whose bank accounts received huge deposits, estimated by the opposition at $350 million.

The emir criticised the opposition for resorting to the street and for making serious accusations of corruption and treason without proof.

“Strange practises seen recently in Kuwaiti society have exceeded all limits and undermined our national principles,” said the emir in an indirect reference to demonstrations organised by the opposition and youth activists.

Sheikh Sabah said he was disturbed by the baseless charges of “bribery, corruption and treason.”

Opposition MPs have directly accused the prime minister of making questionable cash transfers from public funds to his personal accounts overseas.

The government has categorically denied the accusations and challenged the opposition to produce evidence.

But as parliament began the new term, a group of youth activists posted large posters of their own pictures with bank notes covering their mouths in protest over the corruption allegations, according to several Twitter users.

Authorities quickly removed the posters but not before Twitter users posted pictures of the posters on their accounts.

Thanks to high oil price, OPEC’s third largest producer has amassed over $300 billion in surpluses but development projects have been stalled by continuous wrangling.