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Kuwait MPs are seen during a Parliament session at the National Assembly in Kuwait City on May 15.
MPs vote to accept 5 resignations Hope for by-election before Ramadan … No recess until new-five sworn in

KUWAIT CITY, May 15: Majority of the parliamentary members voted on the acceptance of the resignation of five MPs — Riyadh Al-Adsani, Abdulkareem Al-Kandari, Hussein Quwaian, Safat Al-Hashim and Ali Al-Rashid in a special session Thursday. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim said that according to Article 18 of the Parliament Charter and Article 84 of the Constitution, the seats of these five MPs are now vacant; hence, the need for a by-election within two months from date of the declaration of vacancies.

He clarified the government will specify the date for the by-election. Al-Ghanim disclosed his office will send the resignation letters to the government on Sunday; hoping the by-election will be held before Ramadan, which falls in July this year, to fill the vacant seats. He added the legislature also agreed that the Parliament Office should study and respond to the MPs’ reasons for resignation.

On the date of the last legislative session for the current term, Al-Ghanim explained it will not be determined before the conclusion of the by-election and oath-taking of the five new parliamentarians.

Before debating on the resignation, the speaker confirmed having a talk with some of the resigned MPs to convince them to rescind their resignation, but they all insisted on standing by their decision. MP Adel Al-Kharafi, who was assigned by the speaker to talk to MPs Hussein Quwaian and Safa Al-Hashim, revealed that Al-Hashim did not respond to his calls and messages; while Quwaian made it clear that his decision was final.

A total of 35 members voted on the acceptance of Al- Adsani’s resignation and there were eight votes against it. For the resignation of Al-Kandari, 43 in favor and seven against; only 15 members out of total 49 voted against the resignation of Quwaian; 19 out of 49 against that of Al-Rashid and 11 out 48 against that of Al- Hashim.

The five resigned MPs, including the only woman in the Parliament, were not present during the session. It can be recalled that opposition MPs — Al-Adsani, Al- Kandari and Quwaian — announced their resignation two weeks ago when the Parliament rejected their request to grill HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak over the allegation that he gave cash to some lawmakers.

Four days later, Al-Rashed, who previously served as speaker of the Parliament, and Al-Hashem also resigned; claiming the situation in the country had reached a “deadlock”. Other reasons cited were the violation of Article 50 of the Constitution which stipulates separation of powers between the executive and legislative authorities, inability of MPs to play their supervisory role on the government, failure to accomplish important projects, covering up corruption and corrupt persons, and the Parliament speaker’s misuse of power.

This is the first mass resignation by Kuwaiti MPs since 1967 when several lawmakers quit in protest at allegations of election rigging. Kuwait is the first country in the Gulf Arab region to have a constitution and elected parliament. Before the latest row, the oilrich State had seen relative political calm for 10 months following several years of bitter disputes between the Parliament and the ruling family- controlled government.

Between mid-2006 and last year, the Parliament was dissolved six times and more than a dozen governments were formed. The opposition boycotted the last two elections in protest against the amendment of the Electoral Law.

Meanwhile, prior the voting for or against the resignation, the state minister for Cabinet Affairs was given the floor to present the official statement of the government regarding the resignation of the five MPs. He asserted the government disagrees with all the reasons mentioned in the resignation letters, such as the alleged attempt by the executive authority to prevent the use of interpellation. He pointed out that since the beginning of the Parliament, 89 interpellation requests have been submitted and 12 of which were presented during the current legislative term. He argued this is enough  to disprove the aforementioned allegation.

On the purported refusal of the government to cooperate in terms of responding to parliamentary queries, the minister quoted the Parliament Office as saying that 1,020 queries were submitted this term and 833 have been answered while 54 have been postponed. In the meantime, the lawmakers had mixed reactions to the resignation of their colleagues. Some expressed their disappointment over insistence of the MPs to resign and called the government to give them more time to rethink their decision.

Others called for respecting the decision of their colleagues since the latter had insisted on resigning, so their resignation should be accepted to pave the way for the by-election. Despite these differences, majority of the lawmakers expressed disappointment over reasons for the resignation due to false accusations against other MPs and the speaker. MPAbdullah Al-Turaiji said the fourth point in the resignation letter was a clear accusation hurled at the committee tasked to investigate the multimillion deposit scandal, particularly the claim that the panel has been hiding the truth. He stressed the panel works with full transparency and he presented documents to prove this, indicating Al-Adsani was a member of the committee and he cannot deny the fact that all decisions are taken through voting.

MP Sadoun Al-Azmi alleged some of the resigned MPs were hoping for the rejection of their resignation as they still submitted letters of excuse for their absence in the parliamentary sessions. He said this only shows that these lawmakers do not want an absence in their slate which should not have been issue since they already submitted their resignation. Al-Turaiji then requested the Parliament Office to verify the allegation and the latter revealed that only two of the five resigned MPs had submitted excuse letters. MP Abdulhamid Dashti argued their colleagues have all the right to resign regardless of the reasons. He said the decision of the resigned MPs clearly indicates that they have disregarded the trust bestowed upon them by the citizens who stood in line to vote for them despite the heat and fasting during Ramadan. He disclosed he has done his part in convincing his colleagues to change their minds but his efforts were in vain.

MP Faisal Al-Kandari wanted to remind the Kuwaiti public about the disorder and tension since the start of the current legislative term. He said the government has been bombarded with interpellations by the resigned MPs who also instigated disagreements during discussions on the GCC Security Agreement. He added these MPs cited “safeguarding corruption” as one of their reasons for resignation and he considers this an insult to the Assembly. He lamented a lot of people have been claiming to be in possession of documents proving the involvement of government figures in corruption but none of them had presented these documents to the Public Prosecution or the Assembly. Since none of these people has come forward, “this only indicates there is an agenda to dissolve the Parliament from the outside,” the MP asserted. He went on to urge everyone, who claims to be in possession of such documents, to approach the Assembly and present these documents ; then watch whether or not justice will be served, for the MPs are honest men who desire nothing more than the development of the country and to end corruption.

Agreeing with the MP, the minister of foreign affairs called on anyone in possession of documents to prove allegations against members of the ruling family, except HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf, to submit the documents to the Public Prosecution. “If we want to safeguard the country of institutions, we must bear in mind that no one is above the law, which include the ruling family members; otherwise, we have to stop these false claims that only lead to more tension and disorder,” he concluded. MP Yakoub Al-Sanei wondered why people were quiet when an interpellation was postponed indefinitely in the previous Parliament. He believes this happened because the Parliament takes a decision in such cases; not the rule of law. MP Saleh Ashour said the Parliament has no right force the MPs to participate or stay away from it. He argued that if 10 percent of the members of the Parliament are absent, this will affect its work and that of the committees. Politically speaking, a lawmaker represents his constituents; not himself, so the resigned MPs should have addressed their constituents before submitting their resignation letters, he added. Moreover, the Parliament was supposed to discuss the government’s plan to diversify its sources of revenues and the national economy but it approved the request of MPs to postpone deliberations until May 20, 2014 by allocating three hours of the session to tackle these issues. The Assembly agreed to advance the date of the sessions slated for May 27 and 28 to next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the abovementioned issues and other items in the agenda.

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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