KUWAIT CITY, Oct 31: Legal and constitutional implications after Parliament rejected lifting two Kuwaiti lawmakers’ parliamentary privileges should be “discussed and dealt with,” Kuwait’s National Assembly Speaker said on Tuesday.
A Cassation Court ruling in late 2017 issued jail sentences against 13 people, including lawmakers Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Herbash, for their part in the so-called ‘National Assembly case’. “As the Parliament’s Speaker, I tried to be neutral and commit to National Assembly rules of procedure in spite of their being a conflict between its articles and constitutional articles,” said Marzouq Al-Ghanim. “We resorted to parliamentary voting in accordance with Article 16 of the National Assembly rules of procedure,” he said as lawmakers met for the first time at the third regular session of the legislative term.
Some 31 lawmakers voted against the motion thus preventing the verdict from passing in the 65-member Parliament, which exempted two votes due to the court rulings, he explained.
Al-Ghanim, meanwhile, praised His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for a speech he delivered to lawmakers, which noted to a “sensitive and critical” stage, shortly before the session.
Earlier, in his announcement of the results, the Parliament chief expressed pride in Kuwaiti democratic practices leading up to the verdict. The opening ceremony Tuesday morning of the third regular session of the 15th legislative term of the National Assembly adjourned at 23:00 hours that day due to important items on the agenda leaving no time for the formation of committees.
The Speaker of Parliament Marzouk Al-Ghanim then called for a special session of the National Assembly, Thursday, during which the parliamentary committees will be formed. This is in addition to addressing new items which were on the agenda.
Upon conclusion of the opening session, Al-Ghanim stated he and the rest of the MPs take seriously the words of wisdom and advice given by HH the Amir to continue down the road to development and progress in the best interests of the country.
The Speaker reiterated the grilling request which was filed against the Prime Minister was withdrawn from the agenda.
The Assembly discussed another interpellation that was filed by MP Riyadh Al-Adsani against Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Adel Al- Kharafi, but nothing was said or done in this regard with no one opting for a no-confidence vote against the minister.
With regard to deliberations over stripping the membership of MPs Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jama’an Al- Harbash, the Speaker asserted he remained neutral to the best of his ability and mediated deliberations in accordance to the internal regulations of the National Assembly despite there being minor confl icts between the Constitution and the regulations.
The subject was intensely debated by the MPs – the MPs who were in favor and those against, with some constitutional and legal experts giving their opinions, but the Parliament ultimately put the issue to the vote, which ended with the two MPs retaining their seats by a margin of 2 votes, as some MPs abstained and others didn’t even participate.
Since MPs Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jama’an Al-Harbash were outside the country due to their convictions, MP Mohammed Al-Mutairi called on them to return home following the confirmation of their membership by the National Assembly. Following the vote in their favor, the Ministry of Interior has no mandate to arrest them without a motion on which the Assembly must first address. But if the ministry insists on arresting the two MPs “an interpellation against the Minister of Interior has been readied.”
Moreover, one of the MPs who did not participate was Yousef Al-Fadhala. He clarified his stand saying to his belief the motion was unconstitutional, therefore calling on the amendment of the policies followed when addressing MPs losing their seat upon being convicted with a felony.
He asserted the public should not blame the MPs but the system and the policies that are being followed, for as long as it remains unchanged, this issue will continue to attract conflicts, debates and parliamentary tensions.
The MP explained the danger of this practice, saying as long as an MP wins a majority on the floor of the National Assembly they will be protected even if they commit a felony. He also pointed out that the government made it clear during the days leading to the vote that the ministers were against stripping the memberships, but voted in favor during the session. He said, he wonders, what kind of policy the government follows in such cases.