Kuwait court expels harsh government critic from parliament
The court nullified Bader al-Dahoum's membership in the currently suspended parliament, citing an old conviction for insulting the late emir.
The ruling "is seen as an attempt by the government to eliminate a harsh critic from the political scene", said Kuwaiti political analyst Mohammed al-Yousef. "It's a bad sign for how the government will deal with dissent."
The decision sparked instant fury among his fellow lawmakers, given that the country's highest appeals court had since acquitted al-Dahoum on the defamation charges, clearing the way for him to run in last year's parliamentary elections.
Al-Dahoum has become notorious in Kuwait for his vociferous protests against the government but in recent weeks, the discord between the country's elected parliament and emir-appointed cabinet has reached a fever pitch.
Following lawmakers' uproar over new ministerial appointments earlier this year, the government resigned and the emir later suspended parliament for a month starting February 18 to defuse tensions.
The deadlock has pushed oil-rich Kuwait toward its worst financial crisis in decades and impeded all efforts toward political and social reform.
As some two dozen lawmakers convened to discuss next steps Sunday, distrust was running high. Lawmakers suspected political motives in the court decision, with some demanding urgent legal changes to reduce the court's influence over the elected parliament.
While Kuwait's parliament is more democratic than other Persian Gulf sheikhdoms, its powers remain limited.
Lawmakers can introduce legislation and interrogate ministers, though the emir retains ultimate authority and ruling family members hold senior posts.
The move comes as opposition figures in Kuwait are feeling increasingly hemmed in amid the suspension of parliament and a nationwide coronavirus curfew that forbids residents from gathering and leaving their homes after five pm.