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Kuwait’s new emir asks cabinet to stay on despite custom

Emir Nawaf has asked the country's cabinet to stay in office [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 October, 2020

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The emir of Kuwait has asked the country’s prime minister and government to stay in office, despite a custom of governments resigning when a new emir takes power.

The new emir of Kuwait, who ascended the throne following the death of his half-brother last week, has asked the Cabinet to continue performing its duties despite the prime minister’s offer to resign, the state-run news agency KUNA reported on Tuesday.

The prime minister of the tiny oil-rich Gulf country and his Cabinet made the offer in a nod to the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, giving him the chance to appoint a replacement as custom dictates.

But Sheikh Nawaf “affirmed his great confidence” in the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah, according to KUNA. He asked the same government to “continue carrying out its tasks” ahead of parliamentary elections tentatively set for late November.

Read also: Kuwait faces Saudi-Emirati pressure to normalise with Israel

The move may signal Sheikh Nawaf’s desire to follow the political path charted by his predecessor, the late Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and also allows Kuwait to avoid the difficulties of forming a new government ahead of elections, when the Cabinet will end its term anyway. Parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanim announced that the legislature would dissolve itself on Thursday to set the stage for elections, according to the state-linked al-Qabas newspaper.

Despite Sheikh Nawaf’s high praise for the current Cabinet, ten lawmakers last month submitted a no-confidence motion against Kuwait’s deputy prime minister and interior minister amid growing dissatisfaction over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and budgetary problems.

Kuwait’s treasury is running out of cash, prompting a major credit agency last month to downgrade the wealthy country for the first time in its history.

As crown prince, Sheikh Nawaf was not known for making any major policy decisions, and at age 83, his greatest impact may be in his choice of a successor. Following the death of Sheikh Sabah, who commanded great respect in the region as a seasoned diplomat, speculation has mounted over the next crown prince, especially as top contenders in the past have feuded over corruption allegations. The emir has a full year to select the crown prince, but Tuesday's statement from al-Ghanim, the parliament speaker, suggested the decision may be discussed during the final legislative session this week.

Kuwait stands out among other monarchies in the Gulf for its empowered and outspoken parliament, which can reject the emir's pick for prime minister.

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