Kuwait names cabinet with opposition MPs, new finance minister

PM Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah’s new cabinet represents Kuwait’s fourth government over the last year and a half.

Kuwaiti parliament in session
Kuwait bans political parties but has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies [File: Gustavo Ferrari/AP Photo]

Kuwait has formed a new cabinet with a new finance minister and including three opposition legislators following a standoff between previous governments and the parliament.

Oil Minister Mohammad al-Fares was reappointed in the new cabinet announced on Tuesday.

Abdul Wahab al-Rasheed, head of the non-governmental Kuwait Economic Society, replaced Khalifa Hamada as finance minister.

The new health minister is Khaled al-Saeed, whose predecessor had steered Kuwait through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement of a new cabinet broke a monthlong deadlock with the nomination of 15 new government ministers who will have to address a series of political and financial difficulties.

This is the Gulf state’s third cabinet this year after the previous governments resigned in the standoff that had hindered state efforts for fiscal reform.

The government has tried to temporarily boost finances while more structural and fiscal reforms remain deadlocked, including a debt law to tap international markets.

The dispute has delayed an overhaul of Kuwait’s welfare system and prevented the sheikhdom from taking on debt – leaving it with little in its coffers to pay bloated public sector salaries.

State media said Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who had taken steps to defuse the standoff, approved the cabinet despite having handed over most constitutional duties in November to the crown prince, who issued the decree on the cabinet formation.

OPEC member Kuwait bans political parties but has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies, including the power to pass and block laws, question ministers and submit no-confidence votes against senior government officials.

The cabinet has only one female minister. It includes three opposition MPs and one pro-government lawmaker, in a departure from past governments that normally included only one member of parliament.

The opposition parliamentarians were given the information, social affairs and National Assembly affairs portfolios.

“The government is trying to dismantle the opposition front … by including some parliamentarians in the government formation,” Kuwaiti political analyst Mohammed al-Dosari told Reuters news agency.

He said several opposition members are still seeking the departure of the prime minister and the parliament speaker.

Several legislators had insisted on questioning Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid, premier since late 2019, on various issues, including handling the pandemic and perceived corruption.

Kuwaiti analysts suggested on social media that the new appointments could weaken the sway of opposition lawmakers in parliament who have blocked government reforms. More parliamentarians now have tribal representation in the new cabinet and may be persuaded to support the government.

Source: News Agencies