Kuwait unveils new cabinet amid protests, royal family infighting

The government said it hoped the latest reshuffle will end a turbulent period that started with anti-graft demonstrations in November.
Sunday 22/12/2019
A group photo of the Kuwait's new government in Kuwait, December 17. (Kuwait News Agency via Reuters)
A group photo of the Kuwait's new government in Kuwait, December 17. (Kuwait News Agency via Reuters)

LONDON - After allegations of corruption and infighting within the royal family, the Kuwaiti government unveiled a new cabinet to address issues that sparked anti-corruption protests and caused the resignation of government officials.

Kuwait revealed the members of cabinet to be led by Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Hamad al-Sabah. The government said it hoped the latest reshuffle will end a turbulent period that started with anti-graft demonstrations in November.

Kuwaiti demonstrators gathered outside parliament in early November to protest against graft. They were galvanised by statements in parliament by pro-government Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem, who said corruption allegations in Kuwait were greatly exaggerated and said there had been attempts to show that Kuwait was “the capital of the corruption world and that all Kuwaitis are involved in corruption,” Agence France-Presse reported.

Kuwaitis then gathered in front of the parliament building, calling on legislative and executive leaders to step down.

“Resign! Resign, Marzouq. The Kuwaiti people don’t want you!” protesters chanted.

The cabinet resigned November 14.

“Game over,” tweeted @Marsana2011, sharing a picture of both the resigning prime minister and Ghanem.

Ghanem kept his position and said Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah informed him he had no intention to dissolve parliament, a common occurrence in Kuwaiti politics that is usually preceded by a call from parliamentarians to interrogate about corruption allegations.

“According to what I was told by his highness the emir, I do not think there are any plans to dissolve the National Assembly at the current time,” Ghanem was quoted as saying by the state news agency Kuna on November 14.

“The issue is larger than question [of ministers]… The problem with the cabinet team is its lack of coherence,” Ghanem said in a video carried by the privately owned Al-Qabas.

It was followed by what is considered a rare occurrence in local politics when Kuwait’s defence and interior ministers clashed publicly over allegations of embezzlement.

The dispute came after the Kuwaiti government resigned over an alleged clash between members of the government and after lawmakers filed no-confidence motions against two ministers, including the interior minister.

On November 16, local media said the ruling family was expected to meet to contain the dispute between resigned Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah, caretaker Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and caretaker Interior Minister Sheikh Khaled al-Jarrah al-Sabah.

Matters escalated when, in a statement on the army’s Twitter account November 16, Sheikh Nasser, the eldest son of Sheikh Sabah, said he discovered embezzlements of approximately $790 million from the Kuwaiti Army fund when Sheikh Khaled was the minister of defence from 2013-16.

Sheikh Nasser also claimed he asked the prime minister to act against the alleged embezzlements, which he said were “the main reason for the government’s resignation.”

Agence France-Presse reported that Sheikh Nasser was seeking the prosecution of his predecessor along with five other top Defence Ministry officials over the alleged embezzlement.

The Kuwaiti Justice Ministry imposed an order banning local media from reporting on the embezzlement case. It said the trial would be closed and that no information related to it should be circulated.

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