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Kuwaiti Special Forces ‘beat’ MPs and protestors 10, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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Kuwaiti Special Forces clashed violently with what they describe as an unauthorised protest organised by opposition MPs. Reports indicate that they harshly used their batons to beat protesters, including many MPs themselves, in an attempt to disperse the crowd that had gathered at the house of MP Jamman Al Harbash, one of the key organisers. Numerous participants and MPs were taken to hospital for their injuries.

This rally was the second one designed to bring attention to ‘a government plot’ to amend Kuwait’s 1962 constitution underpinning Kuwait’s brand of Parliamentary Democracy. It also has its roots in the long-standing confrontations between Opposition MPs and the Government, as represented by the Prime Minister (the nephew of the Emir).

One of the key issues at stake concerns corruption in the elite, which is a persistent bug-bear of Opposition MPs (and the population as a whole). Specifically, they wanted to protest the prosecution of an MP (Faisal Mislem) who showed a copy of a cheque for £400,000 from the Prime Minister to a former MP. At the time this caused a huge furore, not only because it was a flagrant accusation of bribery by the (Royal) Prime Minister but also because it was hugely embarrassing for him.

Before the protest, earlier in the day Emir Sabah Al Sabah, had warned that protests could be held within MPs houses or Diwaniyyas (meetings) but were not allowed to spill out onto the streets. This is something of a legal ‘sticking point’. A 2006 declaration by Kuwait’s constitutional court clearly states that rallies may be held without government approval. The Emir is trying to lightly back-peddle on this by suggesting that while this is true, this does not give some kind of carte blanche for any and all protests to take place.

Given such clear backing and instruction from the Emir, it is believed that the unpopular Prime Minister gave the order for the Special Forces to intervene.

MPs plan to ‘grill’ (interpolate) the Prime Minister on this subject today in what will certainly be a heated session. They broke the taboo allowing them to interrogate the Royal PM this time last year. This ushered in a period of relative calm and productivity in the Parliament. Previously, MPs wilfully sought to ‘grill’ the PM knowing full-well that doing do would force the Emir to dissolve the Parliament. A key corollary of this harmful atmosphere in the Parliament was that much needed economic reform packages were consistently delayed. Though they have gone through now in the past 12 months as a sign of improving tensions, many are yet to come into legal force.

There must surely be fears in Kuwait that this latest spat could, once again, escalate tensions between the Government and the Parliament. The fall out of this could be a return to the bitter and acrimonious politics of recent years in Kuwait where the difficult decisions that need to be taken regarding Kuwait’s economy and infrastructure once again fall victim to the febrile atmosphere of partisan politics and dissention.

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