Kuwait emir to take oath as government prepares action

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) — Kuwait’s ailing emir decided Sunday to take oath in parliament this week despite the government’s determination to remove him on health grounds, plunging the oil-rich Gulf state deeper into crisis.
“A special session of parliament will be convened on Tuesday to enable the emir [Sheikh Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah] to take the oath” and assume his responsibilities, the state-run KUNA agency reported.

But the session could be blocked by the Cabinet, headed by powerful Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah who has been backed by most members of the ruling family to replace the ailing emir who rose to the top post on the death of his predecessor last Sunday.

The decision to hold the session was taken during a meeting between the emir and Parliament Speaker Jassem Khorafi, who only went to see the new ruler after parliament agreed to hold the swearing-in session.

Sheikh Saad had asked for parliament to convene on Sunday to enable him to take the oath of office and his supporters had posted his pictures on the walls of the house.

“Given that time is too short to call the session this evening, I asked for an appointment to consult with, and listen to, the instructions of His Highness about a [different] time he would choose to take the oath,” Khorafi told reporters.

The session could still be blocked by the government — which decided on Saturday to initiate constitutional procedures to remove Sheikh Saad on grounds of ill health — as under Kuwaiti law at least one minister must attend parliamentary sessions to be legal.

Khorafi said he had still not received a letter from the Cabinet informing him of its decision to start moves to remove Sheikh Saad who became emir on the death of Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

The postponement of both the swearing-in session and the sending of the Cabinet’s letter to parliament suggested attempts were still under way to find a way out of the political crisis.

A statement issued after a Cabinet meeting on Sunday said the government examined measures related to the implementation of a 1964 law which makes it possible to remove the emir on health grounds.

The government is expected to meet on Monday and is likely to send a letter to parliament to start constitutional measures to remove the emir unless top family members reach a solution.

To remove the emir, a two-thirds majority vote is required by the 65-member parliament, which includes 16 Cabinet ministers.

Supporters of Sheikh Saad put up huge placards in downtown Kuwait and other parts of the emirate on Sunday hailing him as “the hero of the liberation of Kuwait,” which came under Iraqi occupation in 1990-1991 before it was freed by a US-led coalition.

Sheikh Sabah, the 76-year-old shrewd politician who has been de facto ruler of Kuwait for several years, enjoys considerable support within the ruling family, and he is solidly backed by the local press and the Cabinet.

A majority of Kuwaiti lawmakers, who come from outside Al Sabah dynasty, hope to see an amicable solution reached within the ruling family rather than be compelled to take the unprecedented step of voting a ruler out of office.

“We are ready to back any decision that the family takes… I hope that a solution will be reached within the next few days so we do not resort to the [option] of relieving the emir,” Islamist MP Waleed Al Tabtabae told reporters.

As privately owned Kuwaiti newspapers continued to express support for Sheikh Sabah, columnists either urged the family to patch up its differences or welcomed steps to appoint the prime minister as emir.

“We urge our sheikhs [ruling family members] to be real sheikhs, and find a legal constitutional solution to the ongoing crisis,” liberal writer Abdullatif Al Duaij wrote in Al Qabas.

“Kuwait’s decision to authorise Sheikh Sabah to resolve the issue of the emir’s post will draw the roadmap for the future,” Salah Al Sayer said in Al Anbaa.

Kuwait sits on 10 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves and has a native population of just under one million, in addition to 1.9 million foreigners.

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