Kuwait ruler prepares to pardon dissidents, paving the way for reform

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Kuwait’s emir has launched an amnesty process to pardon political dissidents and critics over a months-long political crisis that scuttled the government’s plans to undertake major financial reforms.

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Amnesty has been a contentious point in the standoff between the appointed government and parliament, an already strained relationship over differences over borrowing from abroad to cover a huge budget deficit or dip into the country’s $700b sovereign wealth fund.

Sheikh Nawaf’s office said that Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah tasked the speaker of parliament, the prime minister and the head of the Supreme Judicial Council to recommend the terms and conditions of the pardon before it is issued by decree.

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Highlighting that the pardon may cover “some Kuwaitis convicted in previous cases”, the emir’s office did not disclose the identities of potential opposition figures who would be involved in the pardon and did not provide any further details.

“Access to the opposition is driven by the need to eventually reach agreement on economic reforms. This is a long-term, controversial but inevitable change in the social contract as the energy transition undermines the so-called tenant state, where the government is the nation’s main resource, benefits politically from its control over oil,” said Jane Kinnamont, East analyst at the Central European Leadership Network, a pan-European think tank.

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Some 40 lawmakers have signed an appeal to Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, urging him to “agree to begin the first phase of a comprehensive national reconciliation”.

The movement in parliament is led by prominent opposition MP Obaid al-Wasmi and backed by heavyweight House Speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem, who was the preferred government candidate for the high office when the turmoil began after December’s election.

The lawmakers stressed that the emir’s pardon is “a new page for a new Kuwait”, including the amnesty decree, which will ensure political stability in Kuwait and cooperation between parliament and the government.

Kuwait is governed by a quasi-democratic political system that gives the Legislative Assembly the power to obstruct draft legislation suggested by the government, investigate its decision, and hold a no-confidence vote against its superiors. However, the Kuwaiti ruling family enjoys a special political status, while the Emir holds the power to dissolve the parliament.

The emir retains the final verdict in the affairs of the state and criticizing his decisions can lead to imprisonment.

Unlike the neighboring Gulf states, this system gives citizens some form of power-sharing with the ruling family. But decades of stalemate between the cabinet and the assembly led to government reshuffles and the dissolution of parliament, sometimes hindering investment and reform. Kuwait has had 17 governments and eight elections since 2006.

“Unfortunately, Kuwait’s political institutions have not been good at managing these tensions because the structure of the system actually tends to provoke conflict between the elected legislature and the royally appointed executive decision-makers,” Kinnamont said. Granthshala.

“Instead of supporting and feeding the government, Parliament is opposed to it. Not working. So instead of endless conflicts some more reforms are likely to be needed to create a noble circle between Parliament and the government,” she said.

The long-awaited clemency is expected to include former lawmakers in self-imposed exile who fled the country to escape imprisonment after taking part in the storming of parliament in 2011 over alleged corruption and mismanagement by the government.

Six lawmakers accused of breaching parliament are prominent, including Musallam al-Barak, Faisal al-Misalem and Zaman al-Harbash, who left Kuwait in 2018 to escape prison and are now living in Turkey. Kuwait Times.

The clemency will also list other activists who are in jail for openly disobeying the emir’s policies.

The impasse prompted the emir to postpone meetings of parliament earlier this year. But the political crisis intensified and last month the emir was forced to take an unprecedented step of calling for talks.

Analysts cautioned whether the call for talks would lead to real improvements.

“The apology will be an important confidence-building measure for the opposition, but it remains to be seen whether conditions will be attached – such as requiring dissidents to remain silent or if there will be an ongoing process of reconciliation and reform,” Kinnamont asserted. Gave.

In September last year, former Emir Sabah al-Ahmad passed away, paving the way for his 84-year-old brother, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad, to become leader. The new emir appointed his brother, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmed, 81, as the new crown prince.

The death of the popular emir was seen as a destabilizing factor in Kuwait to neighboring Gulf states, which have been investing in maintaining social stability since the 2011 Middle East uprising, while leading radical economic reform. Huh.

The political turmoil in Kuwait reflects, among other things, the deep transformation mechanisms that have been going on in Gulf societies over the years.

“Kuwaiti politics brings to the surface natural conflicts that lurk in other Gulf states: the energy transition that is becoming increasingly obsolete over the future of the social contract, the role of Islam in society, a voice for youth and a place to claim their place. ,” Kinnamont said.

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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