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Kuwaiti opposition hopes new emir permits political "detente"

This picture taken on October 1, 2020 shows a billboard displaying the face of Kuwait's late emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah with a message of condolences on his passing, along a main road in Kuwait City. [YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images]
This picture taken on October 1, 2020 shows a billboard displaying the face of Kuwait's late emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah with a message of condolences on his passing, along a main road in Kuwait City. [YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images]

Kuwaiti opposition figures proposed electoral reforms and a pardon for dissidents in recent meetings with the prince who has since become the new emir, they said, seeking to improve stormy ties with the government that have sometimes flared into unrest, Reuters reported.

The opposition figures, both liberals and Islamists, presented the proposals to Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah last month while he was still crown prince and before the death on Tuesday of late ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, they said.

The Kuwaiti government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in as emir at parliament on Wednesday.

Political stability in the oil producing state traditionally depends on cooperation between the government and the outspoken parliament, the oldest legislature in the Gulf Arab states and one often dominated in the past by opposition groups.

READ: Kuwait’s new emir is Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf

It has the power to pass and block legislation, question ministers and submit no-confidence votes against senior government officials, actions that have in effect stalled economic reforms or led to cabinet reshuffles.

While the government tolerates criticism to a degree rare among Gulf Arab states, the emir has the last say in state affairs and criticising him is a jailable offence.

Sheikh Sabah in 2012 broke the hold of opposition groups on parliament by using executive powers to amend the voting system, sparking some of the largest protests in the country’s history.

“We look forward for a political detente with Sheikh Nawaf who has shown some positive signs, including by meeting with opposition leaders,” said Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement.

“A pardon for the exiles would be a good start especially with the upcoming (parliamentary) elections,” he added.

READ: Kuwait’s long serving emir dies at 91

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