The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The National Assembly holds a crucial session today amid lingering political crises and an expected confrontation between opposition MPs and the government and Assembly speaker over grilling the prime minister. Opposition MPs have filed three grillings against HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah and a fourth against Health Minister Basel Al-Sabah, and they have been placed on the session's agenda.

The Assembly last week held a session - boycotted by 31 opposition MPs - and decided to approve a request by the prime minister to delay his grillings for over 18 months. Opposition lawmakers insist the Assembly vote on the issue was rigged since it did not get the required absolute majority of 33 votes in the first vote. Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem then repeated the voting and got the required number, but still failed to call MPs by name as required.

Ghanem says the voting was legal and the prime minister cannot be grilled, while opposition MPs are adamant that the voting was flawed and breached the constitution. The problem is that neither party is in a position to make concessions - the government, speaker and their allies cannot afford to allow the premier to be grilled because the opposition has the numbers to declare non-cooperation with the prime minister and trigger an unprecedented political crisis.

The opposition, on the other hand, will be dealt a big defeat if it allows what it considers an unconstitutional decision to be applied. So, confrontation is highly expected and that may lead to adjourning the session. The grilling against the health minister is easier if the session continues. Opposition MPs have enough numbers to file a no-confidence motion and dismiss the minister.

In the meantime, the Cabinet yesterday decided to allow mosques to hold the Ramadan taraweeh prayers, which are performed after the Isha prayers, but it said they must not exceed 15 minutes, less than half the normal duration. But the Cabinet cautioned that all must observe strict health restrictions during the prayers and advised people who have not received the vaccination to perform prayers at home.

The Cabinet also decided that mosques will close after each of the five prayers and banned religious lectures that are popular during the holy fasting month. The Cabinet banned gatherings to break the fast at mosques, which are held every year for the needy, and asked people responsible to distribute meals instead.

Islamist lawmaker Fayez Al-Mutairi yesterday submitted a draft law in which he proposed the death penalty for people who practice black magic and proposed a five-year jail term for those who seek their assistance.