Interview causes political stir

21 October 2005
National guard chief calls for decision-making review
National guard chief calls for decision-making review

The ruling family hit the local and regional headlines on 11 October after the publication of a controversial newspaper interview forced the emir to issue a public declaration of confidence in his prime minister. The move also spurred debate on political change in the state.

In an interview with local Arabic daily Al-Qabas, head of the national guard and senior ruling family member Sheikh Salem al-Ali al-Sabah suggested that a three-member committee should be set up to assist Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah with governing the state.

The comments were viewed as an indirect criticism of Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who is widely seen as the dominant political figure in Kuwait. Constitutionally, executive decision-making should be wielded by the emir, or in his absence, the crown prince.

'The situation now is chaotic and everybody is complaining about the disorder, the nepotism, the corruption and the bribery rife in the government,' said Sheikh Salem. 'It is a dangerous indicator when our traditions are ignored and when senior members of the ruling family are pushed aside and decisions are taken unilaterally. We should work for the unity of the ruling family, because in its unity and closeness lies Kuwait's unity.'

Following the publication of the article, the 77-year-old emir summoned Jassem al-Kharafi, the head of the National Assembly (parliament), to 'express his complete confidence' in Sheikh Sabah, praising him 'for all his efforts in dealing with all issues for Kuwait's interest, security and stability'.

Both the emir and Crown Prince Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah have been hospitalised over recent months as fears grow over their health. While the prime minister is widely regarded as the natural successor, there is a growing clamour for deep-seated reform. Political debate is relatively open in Kuwait. While inertia has gripped the very top of the ruling hierarchy, parliament has grown increasingly vociferous in its demands for a greater say in decision- making. Alongside this, the economic boom has led to claims of increasing corruption.

It is not the first time the issue has raised its head. Last year, Sheikh Salem hinted that radical changes would be made, although they were later denied by PM Sheikh Sabah. 'There are no changes, neither at the level of government nor at any other level,' he said in August.

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