Kuwait opposition MPs file motion to unseat premier

KUWAIT CITY, Omar Hasan- Kuwait entered a new period of political turmoil Tuesday as 10 opposition MPs filed a motion of "non-cooperation" against the premier over corruption charges after a marathon closed session.
Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the first prime minister to be called to account before parliament since the legislature was introduced in the Gulf emirate in 1962, could be ousted if the motion is passed.

Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah
Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah
"A motion has been officially submitted, and voting will take place on December 16," parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi said after the session was reopened to the public.
MPs questioned the prime minister of the oil-rich Gulf state for six hours in closed session after voting in favour of closing proceedings to the public.
"Parliament has voted to hold the questioning behind closed doors," opposition MP Mussallam al-Barrak told reporters earlier, adding 40 MPs voted for the secret session while 23 were against and one abstained.
Sheikh Nasser faced allegations his office misappropriated tens of millions of dinars (dollars) in the run-up to 2008 elections and that he issued a 700,000-dollar cheque to a former MP last year.
The motion, if passed, would still need to be sent to the emir who decides to either sack the premier, or dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.
The request to question the prime minister was filed last month by Islamist opposition MP Faisal al-Muslim.
After the session, the prime minister issued a written statement expressing his faith in Kuwait's parliamentary system and calling for cooperation between MPs and the government.
Muslim told reporters he would rather that the premier had been questioned in public but added: "The questioning itself is an important democratic achievement for Kuwait.
"Kuwait witnessed a crucial and historical day today because the questioning is unprecedented in the Arab world," he said.
However a majority of MPs later issued a statement expressing confidence in the prime minister.
"We affirm our clear and firm position that we will provide confidence for the prime minister to carry out his duties and declare our opposition to the motion against him," said the statement signed by 30 of parliament's 50 members.
Only elected MPs who are not cabinet ministers have the right to vote on the motion against the premier. All ministers, whether elected MPs or not, hold ex-officio seats in parliament.
For the motion to pass, it requires at least 25 votes.
Parliament later questioned Minister of Public Works and Municipalities Fadhel Safar over accusations of financial and administrative irregularities committed in both ministries.
MPs then began grilling the interior minister over allegations he misled parliament during an earlier appearance on June 23 to answer accusations that he had squandered public funds. They were also due to question the defence minister.
The premier, Defence Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah and Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khaled al-Sabah are all senior members of the emirate's ruling family.
Kuwait has been rocked by political chaos since early 2006 when Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the ruler, was appointed premier.
Since then, parliament has been dissolved three times because of disputes with the government, and Sheikh Nasser has been forced to resign five times.
In June 2008, parliament voted to ask the independent Audit Bureau to investigate allegations of "suspicious" spending of 23 million dinars (86 million dollars) by the premier's office in 2007 and in 2008.
In February, the cabinet decided to refer the Audit Bureau report to the public prosecutor's office and is still awaiting the response.

Tuesday, December 8th 2009
Omar Hasan

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