Amir tells new Assem­bly spend­ing cuts in­evitable

Op­po­si­tion shut out Ghanem re­elected speaker, Kan­dari deputy

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By B Iz­zak

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah told the new Na­tional Assem­bly’s in­au­gu­ral ses­sion that cuts in pub­lic spend­ing are “in­evitable” and re­quire sac­ri­fices to face the sharp slide in oil rev­enues. Mean­while, for­mer pro-govern­ment speaker Mar­zouq Al-Ghanem was re­elected in a stun­ning fash­ion by se­cur­ing 48 votes against a com­bined 17 votes for his two op­po­si­tion com­peti­tors - MPs Ab­dul­lah Al-Roumi and Shuaib Al-Muwaizri.

Sur­pris­ingly, Ghanem ob­tained more votes in this Assem­bly with a strong op­po­si­tion pres­ence com­pared to the 38 votes he ob­tained in the pre­vi­ous Assem­bly, which was de­scribed as a rub­ber­stamp of the govern­ment. The govern­ment also scored an­other win when Essa Al-Kan­dari was elected deputy speaker, de­feat­ing his op­po­si­tion ri­val, Is­lamist MP Ja­maan Al-Har­bash, by a sin­gle vote. All the three los­ing op­po­si­tion MPs strongly lashed out at the govern­ment for sid­ing with their op­po­nents.

In his speech, the Amir said that the sharp fall in oil rev­enues has cre­ated a huge deficit in the state bud­get and that there is no other op­tion but to take ef­fec­tive mea­sures to rec­tify the short­fall. “I am con­fi­dent that the Assem­bly and all cit­i­zens are aware that cut­ting pub­lic spend­ing has be­come in­evitable through well-stud­ied mea­sures,” the Amir said.

A ma­jor­ity of the law­mak­ers who won in the Nov 26 elec­tion have vowed to re­ject any govern­ment aus­ter­ity mea­sures that could im­pose new fi­nan­cial bur­dens on Kuwaiti cit­i­zens. The pre­vi­ous Assem­bly was dis­solved over a dis­pute be­tween the govern­ment and the Assem­bly for rais­ing petrol prices. As a re­sult, the Assem­bly was dis­solved and snap elec­tions were called.

The Amir said the mea­sures must be ac­com­pa­nied by steps to stop squan­der­ing of pub­lic funds and ex­haust­ing na­tional re­sources and di­rect them to­wards the right places. He how­ever called for spar­ing low-in­come peo­ple from fi­nan­cial mea­sures and for tak­ing so­cial jus­tice into ac­count.

The Amir said he would not have liked to ask Kuwaitis to sur­ren­der some­thing they have al­ways en­joyed, but he added that he is con­fi­dent that Kuwaitis, like their an­ces­tors, are ready to sac­ri­fice. Sheikh Sabah also warned against the grow­ing dan­gers and ter­ror­ism around Kuwait and urged cau­tion. The Amir also re­called that na­tional unity can safe­guard Kuwait against dan­gers.

Af­ter his im­pres­sive vic­tory, Ghanem ex­tended a hand of co­op­er­a­tion to all sides in the Assem­bly. But Roumi strongly lashed out at the govern­ment, while Muwaizri urged the speaker to for­get the prac­tices of the pre­vi­ous Assem­bly. Af­ter the re­sult, so­cial me­dia was full of sar­cas­tic com­ments about the new op­po­si­tion group, as 27 MPs had met and de­cided to vote against Ghanem, but only a few did so.

On­line ac­tivists said they were se­verely dis­ap­pointed by the turn of events and how some law­mak­ers won on the pledge of vot­ing against Ghanem, but then failed to ful­fill their promises. The re­sult also cast a thick cloud of doubt over how co­he­sive the op­po­si­tion MPs are and whether they will re­main united on all is­sues.

In the elec­tion of deputy speaker, MP Saadoun Ham­mad first said he wanted to con­test against Har­bash and the even­tual winner Kan­dari. But Ham­mad later with­drew and al­leged that there was a secret deal be­tween the govern­ment and the Is­lamic Con­sti­tu­tional Move­ment (ICM) to elect Har­bash, who strongly de­nied the al­le­ga­tion. In the first vot­ing, Har­bash re­ceived 32 votes against Kan­dari’s 31, and be­cause no one se­cured an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity of votes, which is 33, the vot­ing was re­peated, and this time the re­sult was re­versed and Kan­dari was de­clared the winner. In the sec­ond round of vot­ing, the winner needed only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity to win, ac­cord­ing to the Assem­bly’s in­ter­nal char­ter.

Al­most the same thing hap­pened in elect­ing the sec­re­tary. MPs Safa Al-Hashem, the only fe­male in the house, Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Ou­dah Al-Ou­dah con­tested for the post. No one se­cured an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in the first round, and in the sec­ond, Ou­dah came first and won. Hashem then blasted the govern­ment for not sid­ing with her to elect the first Kuwaiti woman as part of the three per­sons who sit on the Assem­bly’s podium, which would have been a highly pos­i­tive point for Kuwait in­ter­na­tion­ally. How­ever, the op­po­si­tion won the last po­si­tion avail­able, which is the ob­server of the house. Is­lamist MP Nayef Al-Mer­das won the post af­ter two other con­tenders with­drew from the race.

Mean­while, 10 MPs sub­mit­ted two sep­a­rate amend­ments to the na­tion­al­ity law, which call for pre­vent­ing re­vok­ing cit­i­zen­ships with­out a fi­nal court rul­ing. The amend­ments also ban the govern­ment from de­port­ing any per­son af­ter re­vok­ing his ci­ti­zen­ship with­out a fi­nal court rul­ing. The Assem­bly then elected mem­bers of its com­mit­tees.

— Amiri Di­wan

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah pose for a group photo with mem­bers of the new Na­tional Assem­bly yes­ter­day.

Mr Bader Al-Kharafi (sec­ond right), Mr Ali Thu­nayan Al-Ghanem (cen­ter) and Sheikh Me­shary Al-Afasy (sec­ond left) ap­plaud the elec­tion of Mar­zouq AlGhanem as speaker.

— Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

Newly-elected Speaker Mar­zouq Al-Ghanem speaks af­ter his elec­tion dur­ing the open­ing ses­sion of the Assem­bly.

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