Kuwaiti opposition targets Marzouq al-Ghanim in first battle

The opposition proposed MP Bader al-Humaidi take over from Ghanim as parliament speaker.
Thursday 10/12/2020
Kuwaiti candidate and former Parliament Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem (C)talks to supporters at a polling station of the parliamentary election, in Kuwait city, on December 5, 2020. (AFP)
Kuwaiti candidate and former Parliament Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem (C)talks to supporters at a polling station of the parliamentary election, in Kuwait city, on December 5, 2020. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY – The incoming Kuwaiti parliament, following legislative elections December 5, recently witnessed its first battle, an indicatio that its tenure will be heated and marked by the usual clashes between the country’s legislative and executive authorities.

The first battle ended with former National Assembly Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim being removed from office and barred from running for the post again.

The development shows the determination of the opposition, which won a significant number of seats in parliament, to push through projects and programmes that it failed to advance during the previous parliament’s tenure.

Ghanim, who belongs to entrenched financial and business circles in the country, is viewed as being part of a camp loyal to the Kuwaiti elite. He is also an advocate for political stability and continuity, with many attributing the last Kuwaiti parliament’s ability to avoid disillusionment to his efforts.

The opposition proposed MP Bader Al Humaidi to take over as parliament speaker from Ghanim.

Ghanim previously emerged as a frontrunner for the position, given his election result and the fact that he obtained a large number of votes.

He considered that the voters’ confidence in him puts on his shoulders “a double responsibility in carrying out the mission of conveying the voice of the Kuwaitis and their concerns about all matters that trouble them.”

To prevent the former parliament speaker from keeping the position, the Kuwaiti opposition discussed Humaidi’s nomination during a meeting called for by MP Badr al-Dahoum and attended by 36 deputies.

The meeting was then followed by a second informal one in the office of MP Abdul Karim al-Kandari on Wednesday, leading to Humaidi’s official nomination.

Local Kuwaiti newspapers quoted MP Farz al-Daihani as saying, “After the nomination of MP Badr Al-Humaidi as a candidate for the presidency of the National Assembly, we agreed with him on a number of points, which include a comprehensive amnesty, the amendment of the electoral system and the consideration of popular demands.”

Daihani’s statements showed that Ghanim’s exclusion and Humaidi’s nomination were not merely a matter of political intrigue, but rather part of a project that the Kuwaiti opposition had previously prepared to pass bills and push forward plans that had been stalled.

According to the MPs’ statements, Humaidi enjoys a comfortable majority that makes his bid to lead the National Assembly certain to be successful.

The local Al-Qabas newspaper quoted MP Khaled Ayed as saying, “37 MPs chose MP Badr Al Humaidi to head the National Assembly, and several issues were agreed upon, including a comprehensive amnesty.”

In recent years, the issue of amnesty has become a major goal of the Kuwaiti opposition, which seeks for all those convicted of political offences to be pardoned and allowed to participate again in political life.

This comes as authorities insist on evaluating the cases individually, on the condition that those in exile return from abroad and begin serving their sentences before requesting an Emiri pardon.

This approach was applied to the case of the former MP Walid Al Tabtabaei, who enjoyed an Emiri pardon after he began to serve his sentence.

The success in gathering a comfortable majority to remove Ghanim and nominate Humaidi was described as an early show of force that challenges the upcoming government that Prime Minister-designate Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah has been tasked with forming.

Opposition MPs did not hesitate to issue their first explicit threat to the government, pledging to question its ministers despite the fact that the government has not been formed yet.

MP Bader al-Dahoum vowed to question the interior minister in the resigned government, Anas al-Saleh, in the event he is reappointed to the position, saying in a tweet, “The government that accepts the reappointment of someone who stirred and committed serious violations is a government that looks for tension.”

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah re-tasked Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled with forming a new government in order to preserve a thread between the resigned and future governments and ensure continuity in government action.

The recent parliamentary elections resulted in major changes in the composition of parliament, with the opposition now able to form balanced alliances.

If opposition MPs succeed in forming a permanent bloc, this will put Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled in a difficult position and subject him to severe pressure from the legislative body that could prevent him from passing necessary but unpopular economic reforms, including subsidy cuts.