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Heated argument erupts as Speaker adjourns session for lack of quorum

Govt wasting citizens’ time, disrupting legislation: MP Jawhar

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 19: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim adjourned the session on Tuesday due to the absence of the government which resigned recently. The decision led to a heated argument between him and a number of MPs due to differences in the interpretation of the relevant articles of the Constitution.

Al-Ghanim pointed out the decision to adjourn the session is in accordance with the Constitution and parliamentary traditions, adding that five former speakers did the same in a similar situation from1968 to 2021. He cited the last paragraph of Article 116 of the Constitution, stating that the government must be represented either by the Prime Minister or one of the ministers for a parliamentary session to push through. He argued that although Article 97 of the Constitution stipulates the presence of more than half of the MPs is necessary for a quorum, this article should be implemented in line with Article 116.

Absence
Citing parliamentary traditions, Al-Ghanim said former Speaker Ahmed Zaid Al-Sarhan adjourned the session on Jan 9, 1968 in the presence of the late constitutional experts Professor Othman Khalil Othman and Professor Ibrahem Abdulwahab due to the absence of the government. He added speakers adjourned sessions on 28 occasions because of the absence of the government. He stressed that he fully respects the MPs’ points of view, urging them to submit a proposal to the Constitutional Court to explain the disputed articles and this resulted in a heated argument between them. He said Law No. 14/ 1973 on the establishment of the Constitutional Court states it is the only entity to rule on constitutional disputes and it is the only body authorized to interpret and explain articles of the Constitution.

He added that in the 2016 Parliament, MP Mubarak Haif Al- Hajraf submitted a proposal to for the Constitutional Court to explain Articles 97 and 116 but the voting result was a tie – 27 votes in favor and 27 against. He and the previous government were among those who approved the proposal, reiterating his call for the MPs to resubmit the proposal. He went on to say that he adjourned the session on Jan 6, 2021 for the same reason but no one objected at the time and nobody said such action is a violation of the Constitution.

On the other hand, several MPs expressed dissatisfaction over the decision of Al-Ghanim to adjourn the session. MP Abdullah Al-Mudaf said Article 97 stipulates that the presence of more than half of the MPs is required to achieve quorum; while Article 116 states the government should attend the session but its presence or absence has no bearing on the legitimacy of the session. MP Hassan Jawhar asked Al-Ghanim what will happen if the government does not attend parliamentary sessions for a couple of years, then the speaker retored: “What if the MPs do not attend for a couple of years, is it possible to hold the session in their absence?”

Stealing
Jawhar described the absence of the government as stealing the citizens’ time and disrupting legislative work. He asserted the excuse of the government is unacceptable, adding that resignation does not mean the government will not attend the sessions as it continues to function until its successor is formed. He pointed out that Article 107 of the Constitution does not allow the government to disrupt parliamentary sessions, even in the event that the Parliament is dissolved. He clarified that in case the Parliament is dissolved and the government did not call for elections within the grace period of two months, the Parliament resumes its sessions as if it was not dissolved.

On Article 116, he stressed the need to read it from the beginning to fully understand it. He said the articles gives the Parliament the right to summon the concerned minister to a discussion of matters related to his ministry and the government must be represented either by Prime Minister or one of the ministers. He criticized the attitude of Al-Ghanim, saying that it is wrong to depend on traditions if there are clear constitutional articles. He warned the new government will be in an era of unforgettable lessons if it adopts the attitude of its predecessor – stealing the nation’s time.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff

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