New Kuwait cabinet may not answer hopes

07 August 2013

Trouble threatens to brew yet again over the increased dominance of the ruling family in Kuwait’s cabinet

Kuwait has a new government, its 12th in just seven years. Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has just sworn in the new cabinet and there are already fears it will follow the same path as its predecessors.

The latest election, held on 27 July, was again boycotted by opposition groups and recorded a turnout of just 52.5 per cent of the electorate. In contrast to the last two national assemblies, which were dominated by opposition figures and pro-government loyalists, the new parliament is made up of a broader spectrum of Kuwaiti groups.

Nonetheless, some members of parliament, have already voiced complaints about the increased dominance of the ruling family in government. The 16-member cabinet includes seven members of the ruling Al-Sabah family, who occupy the most critical of the Gulf state’s ministries. One of the key demands of the opposition over the past few years has been for greater inclusion in government. But it contains just a single member from the elected National Assembly, the minimum requirement of the country’s constitution.

The emir’s first speech in the assembly called on its members and the government to cooperate to accelerate the pace of Kuwait’s development plans. Opposition may not come just come from parliament, however. Charismatic opposition figures such as Musallam al-Barrak, who was arrested for criticising the emir, retain the capacity to mobilise thousands of supporters.

At stake are billions of dollars of projects that are stuck in the planning stage and yet to be executed. Without an end to the political deadlock, many of them will remain inactive.

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