KUWAIT: The Opposition Coalition, comprising of political groups that boycotted recent elections, yesterday launched what it called a “national political reform program” that seeks a full parliamentary system, an elected government not headed by a ruling family member and legislation to fight corruption and broaden accountability.
The program, signed by most of the groups under the coalition, calls for doubling the National Assembly members to 100, restricting HH the Amir’s undisputed powers on appointing the prime minister and dissolving the current Assembly. “We aim at resolving the faulty confusion between the presidential and the parliamentary systems,” the coalition’s coordinator and former MP Musallam Al-Barrak said at a press conference while releasing the 46-page document.
Kuwait adopts a unique democratic system that is a hybrid between the presidential and the parliamentary forms. Under the first, the head of state enjoys extensive powers while under the latter, parliament has all the powers with formalities left for the head of the state. The Amir in Kuwait enjoys extensive powers and is the head of the three authorities – the executive, the legislative and the judiciary – and can dissolve the Assembly almost unchallenged.
The opposition however wants the reforms to boost the Assembly’s powers and keep the government away from the control of the Al-Sabah family which has been in power for over 250 years. The reform program calls for adopting a multiparty system, legalizing political parties, changing the electoral system to turn Kuwait into a single constituency and that the leader of the party winning the largest number of seats should automatically become the prime minister.
It requires that the new government must submit a program to the Assembly, which must vote on it to grant its confidence to the government, which must resign if the program rejected. The reforms prevent unelected ministers from becoming members of the Cabinet – as is the case now – and increase accountability of the ministers. To achieve that, the program calls for amending 36 articles of the constitution which consists of 183 articles and has never been amended since it was promulgated in 1962. The program also suggested the introduction and the amendment of 20 key laws focusing on combating rife corruption, ensuring more independence of the judiciary and the appointment of senior bureaucrats.
Head of the youth civil democratic union Tareq Al-Mutairi told the press conference the proposed reforms have no precedence since 1938 when Kuwaiti people demanded a democratically elected legislative council. Addressing the ruling family, Mutairi said the achievement of the reforms “is inevitable and the ruling family can chose between the easy and voluntary method or the more difficult way through protests and struggle”.
Former MP and representative of the Islamic Constitutional Movement Jamaan Al-Harbash said the reforms represent a leap to a full parliamentary system in which the executive power will be in the hands of the Kuwaiti people. Saad Al-Ajmi, representative for the nationalist Popular Action Movement, described the reforms as a “salvation program of what remains of Kuwait that has been ruined through the mismanagement of the members of the ruling family”. Barrak said the Opposition Coalition plans to call for rallies and gatherings to press for implementing the reforms, but gave no dates.
By B Izzak
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