Education Minister under fire

09 January 2008
Education Minister Nuriya al-Sabeeh faces a vote of no confidence in Kuwait’s National Assembly (parliament) by the end of January, following a 10-hour grilling in parliament on 8 January.

Ten members of parliament (MPs) submitted a request for a vote after the session, accusing Al-Sabeeh, Kuwait’s only female minister and the first in the region to not wear the veil, of dereliction of duty since she was given the education portfolio last April.

Among other issues, legislators accused her of failing to deal with a well-known school sexual molestation case, and of failing to enact long-standing legislation segregating male and female students in private universities.

Al-Sabeeh vigorously defended her position and drew applause from the public audience, many of whom were women. Several liberal MPs defended her, arguing that the case was politically motivated.

Parliament requires 24 out of 48 votes to sack the minister when it holds the no-confidence poll. Government ministers, which are ex-officio MPs, are unable to take part in the proceedings. Historically, if it becomes clear that a grilled minister does not have enough support to weather the vote, they have usually stepped down to avoid being sacked.

The grilling is the latest example of increasing tension between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Last year, three ministers, including two oil ministers, Sheikh Ali al-Jarrah and Bader al-Humaidhi, were forced to resign in the wake of grilling requests. The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, has repeatedly called on the two branches of government to resolve their differences and work together.

However, with little sign of either side showing much willingness to do so, Kuwait continues to lag behind the rapid economic development of other Gulf states.

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