February 12, 2017

IOC ban leads to Kuwaiti minister’s resignation

Former Kuwaiti minister of Information and Youth Sheikh Salman al-Humoud al-Sabah

London - In what has become a recur­ring theme in Kuwaiti politics, a member of the incumbent government has resigned to avoid a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Sheikh Salman al-Humoud al-Sa­bah resigned February 6th as Infor­mation minister and state minister for Youth Affairs.

Before resigning, Sheikh Salman, who is also a member of the rul­ing family, was questioned for ten hours by three members of parlia­ment over his role in a 15-month ban of Kuwait by international sporting institutions and alleged financial irregularities tied to his ministries.

Sheikh Salman was questioned over why steps needed to lift the ban, which barred Kuwait from the 2016 Olympic Games and quali­fying matches for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, were not im­plemented.

Consequently, 30 out of the 50 members of parliament agreed on filing a no-confidence vote, which led to Sheikh Salman handing in his resignation.

FIFA, international football’s governing body, and the Interna­tional Olympic Committee (IOC) said the suspensions were due to excessive government interference in the Kuwait Football Associa­tion (KFA) and the Kuwait Olympic Committee.

In January, attempts by Sheikh Salman to get the IOC to lift the ban on Kuwait were unsuccessful. The IOC said it would not remove the ban until Kuwait fulfilled steps needed to be accepted again.

“The situation has significantly deteriorated over the past months due to a number of decisions tak­en in violation of the principles and rules of the Olympic Charter, which has constrained the IOC to react accordingly and to reiterate its position,” a statement from the IOC read.

FIFA, in October 2015, said: “The suspension will be lifted only when the KFA and its members (the clubs) are able to carry out their activities and obligations indepen­dently.”

Sheikh Salman has accused “certain Kuwaitis” of causing the suspension by complaining to in­ternational sporting bodies. That statement touched on what is per­haps the actual motivation behind the dispute: Succession within the Kuwaiti royal family, pitting one branch against another.

Kuwait political sources said last December that the struggle relates to what will happen when Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al- Sabah, 87, is succeeded by Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al- Jaber al-Sabah.

“Sheikh Nawaf does not enjoy the same historical and familial credibility as enjoyed by Sheikh Sabah, which means that whoever becomes the new crown prince un­der (Nawaf) will likely play a piv­otal role in the country,” a Kuwaiti source said.

“This role will be much greater than the role of crown prince under the current emir, who dominates political decision-making.”

The main figure tied to the sport­ing crisis and most likely the in­dividual the Information minis­ter referenced without naming is Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia and an IOC mem­ber. He is considered a choice to be the next crown prince.

Local sources claim Sheikh Ah­mad has ties to numerous Islam­ist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seeking a stronger role in Kuwait. Kuwait’s parliament has seen the return of an Islamist-dominated opposition that had boycotted previous elec­tions.

Other members of the al-Sabah family, along with parliamentary Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim, op­pose Sheikh Ahmed as well as Sheikh Salman.

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