Kuwait to reinstate citizenship of many opposition figures
London - After large street protests demanding political reform, the Kuwaiti government has said it would reinstate the citizenship of a number of opposition figures, three years after revoking their nationalities in a crackdown on political dissent.
Observers said this step aims to calm the atmosphere and prevent the collapse of the government, which could lead to calls for early elections for the National Assembly. Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah reportedly does not want that, as it would be an opportunity for the opposition to increase its strength in parliament, observers said.
They added that achieving a sense of calm with the opposition is an option taken by the government to avoid parliamentary infighting by the opposition, which emerged with more influence after last November’s elections. This was clear with the government’s first political casualty, former minister of Information Sheikh Salman al-Homoud al-Sabah.
Sheikh Salman, a member of the ruling family, resigned February 6th as Information minister and state minister for Youth Affairs.
Three members of parliament questioned him for ten hours over his role in a 15-month ban of Kuwait by international sporting institutions and alleged financial irregularities tied to his ministries. After 30 out of the 50 members of parliament agreed on filing a no-confidence vote, Sheikh Salman resigned.
Most of the citizenship revocations occurred in 2014 and were widely viewed as an attempt by the government to quell descent. Kuwaiti law dictates that authorities may terminate an individual’s citizenship over threats to national security or national unity. Other possible reasons include holding dual nationalities and conviction of a crime within 15 years of naturalisation.
Among Kuwaiti opposition figures who are to have their nationalities reinstated is political activist and spokesman for the Popular Action Movement (PAM) Saad al- Ajmi, who was deported to Saudi Arabia a year after his citizenship was revoked.
Other high-profile opposition figures to have their citizenship revoked included Islamist MP Abdullah al-Barghash and more than 50 members of his family and the publisher of the oppositional Alam Al-Youm newspaper, Ahmad Jabr al-Shemmari, who said the government’s action left him stateless.
The opposition in parliament has pushed to have the government’s powers on revoking citizenship curtailed and filed a motion to debate the issue. However, on March 9th government supporters in parliament defeated a motion by opposition MPs to debate an amendment to the 57-year-old law, delaying the discussion.
Kuwaiti Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Falah al- Azab said the National Assembly has formed an ad hoc committee to tackle the citizenship issue.
Unlike the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, Kuwaitis enjoy more political freedom and the country has an elected parliament with powers to question ministers despite the fact that all main cabinet positions are held by the ruling branch of the al-Sabah family.
The latest tug of war comes after snap elections in November in which opposition groups, participating after a 4-year boycott, won almost half of the 50 parliamentary seats. One of the opposition’s main campaign pledges was to amend the citizenship law.