Kuwait reveals new cabinet

29 May 2008

Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah has retained several members of the last government in his new cabinet.

The previous administration resigned earlier this year after continual disagreements with the National Assembly (parliament). The new cabinet was named on 28 May.

Among the most notable names in the new line-up is Mohammed al-Olaim who becomes the new Oil & Gas Minister after filling the role on a temporary basis since November. Al-Olaim, who is linked to the majority Islamist faction in the newly-elected parliament, will combine the key hydrocarbons portfolio with the electricity & water post.

The linking of the two ministries will raise eyebrows because the two positions were split after the break-up of the now defunct energy ministry in 2006. One of the reasons given at the time was that the post was too big for one minister.

Another eye-catching development is the appointment of liberal academic Mudhi al-Humoud as the second female minister. She takes charge of the housing & administrative development ministry. She joins Nuriya al-Sabeeh, who retains the education portfolio.

The two women are the only unveiled female ministers in the Gulf, and are likely to come under fire from the Islamist-dominated parliament which has in the past insisted that Al-Sabeeh wears a head-scarf.

Parliament is unlikely to be happy with the cabinet as only one MP was made a minister - Minister of Justice & Islamic Affairs Hussein al-Huraiti - the minimum stipulated by the constitution.

The number of Shias in the cabinet has doubled to two. The newcomer, Public Works & Municipalities Minister Fadil Safar, has been accused of being a member of “Hezbollah Kuwait” after taking part in a rally in support of Hezbollah terrorist Imad al-Mugheniyeh earlier this year.

The cabinet’s four so-called “sovereign” ministries - information, interior, defence and foreign affairs - remain in the hands of the same members of the Al-Sabah ruling family.

While the cabinet covers all the main elements of Kuwaiti society, including the ruling family and Islamist, tribal and liberal ministers, it is unlikely to appease a parliament which has been agitating for greater representation for its own members.

If the government and legislature cannot find a way of working together, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah may find himself calling new elections sooner than he would have liked.

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