Kuwait prime minister to face parliamentary questions

24 November 2009

Sheikh Nasser al-Ahmed al-Sabah will be the first senior GCC leader to submit to questioning by a publicly-elected body

Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Ahmed al-Sabah is planning to appear before members of the country’s National Assembly (parliament) in late December to answer questions about allegations of financial irregularities.

A government source in Kuwait says that Sheikh Nasser met with members of his cabinet on 23 November to discuss the move.

“It is being discussed right now,” says the source. “The plan is that he submit himself for questioning. The grilling will be carried out because he wants to prove a point. This is the first time that he has been ready and willing to stand.”

According to the source, Sheikh Nasser is considering setting 21 or 22 December as a date for the hearing.

Members of the parliament want to question the prime minister over allegations of financial irregularities made by Faisal al-Mislem, an conservative Islamist MP. In October, Al-Mislem submitted a 34-page document to the National Assembly claiming that in June 2008, Sheikh Nasser paid KD200,000 ($701,000) for undisclosed reasons to a third party, who was then an MP.

Under Kuwait’s constitution, MPs can file applications to publicly interrogate members of the cabinet up to and including the Prime Minister. Sheikh Nasser is a nephew of the country’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah.

Previously, MPs have passed motions in parliament calling for Sheikh Nasser and members of his cabinet to be questioned. However, the refusal of the Prime Minister and his cabinet to submit to questioning have resulted in the resignation of five cabinets since 2006. They have also led to the emir dissolving parliament on three occasions since he took office in 2006.

News that Sheikh Nasser is planning to face questioning will be welcomed by many Kuwaitis, who have been frustrated by disagreements between the executive and legislative arms of government that have prevented the implementation of several key economic policy initiatives. Growing discontent over the delays have increased pressure on the Prime Minister and his cabinet to submit to questioning.

If Sheikh Nasser does submit to parliamentary questioning, it will be the first time a political leader and leading royal family member in the GCC, has been subjected to questioning by a publicly-elected body. The significance of the move has left many politicians in the country doubtful that Sheikh Nasser will go ahead with the plan.

“I will believe it when I see it,” says one Kuwaiti MP.

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