Kuwait cancels parliament session after govt no show

Opposition lawmakers want to quiz Shamali over alleged financial irregularities in departments he oversees.

Kuwait cancels parliament session after govt no show

World Bulletin / News Desk

A meeting of Kuwait's parliament was cancelled on Wednesday after the cabinet failed to show up after a row over plans by opposition lawmakers to quiz the embattled finance minister.

Local media and analysts say Finance Minister Mustapha al-Shamali may step down rather than face a vote of no confidence or risk triggering a deeper political crisis.

The minister was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday when contacted by telephone.

Opposition lawmakers want to quiz Shamali over alleged financial irregularities in departments he oversees. Shamali has repeatedly rejected the accusations but said he is willing to be face questions according to parliamentary rules.

"I have expressed my readiness to discuss the two grilling motions separately," he said in a statement carried on state news agency KUNA.

Kuwait's information minister last week dismissed media reports that Shamali would resign.

The cabinet walked out of Tuesday's session, saying the current plan to question Shamali was unconstitutional because it merged two separate requests from MPs. On Wednesday, the cabinet did not arrive for the session, signalling a rise in tensions between Kuwait's government and parliament.

"This is a political show. If he goes through one "grilling" session, I think he will resign afterwards because it is almost certain he cannot win a confidence vote," said Ghanim al-Najjar, political science professor at Kuwait University.

"If not there is a possibility of a snap election, this is growing by the hour," he said.

Kuwait's al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the ruling family, speculated in an editorial last week that Shamali may step down as finance minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle.

The major oil producer ushered in its fourth parliament in six years after a snap election in February which was triggered by another political row between the government and parliament. Opposition, mainly Islamist MPs, won a majority of seats.

Political turmoil in the Gulf state has held up decisions on large investment projects and scared away foreign investors, analysts and bankers say.

While Kuwait has one of the most democratic governing systems in the region, political parties are banned and opposition politicians instead form blocs in parliament. They put pressure on the government through such "grilling" sessions.

"Today's session was adjourned because some Members of Parliament still insist on merging two grilling motions filed against Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mustapha al-Shamali," KUNA said.

Shamali, 69, has worked in Kuwait's Finance Ministry for more than four decades. He first became finance minister in 2007 and held on to the position through several cabinet reshuffles and questioning sessions in parliament.

Kuwaiti opposition parliamentarians charged the previous administration of links to illicit financial transfers abroad in a separate political row.

A Kuwaiti judicial tribunal has cleared the most senior figure, former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, of any wrongdoing. A separate parliamentary inquiry is ongoing.

Sheikh Nasser's government resigned last year following the accusations from opposition lawmakers.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Mayıs 2012, 15:13

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