The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday received a group of opposition lawmakers and discussed local developments with them, MPs who attended the meeting said. MP Osama Al-Munawer said on Twitter the meeting came after the bloc of 31 opposition MPs had requested a meeting with HH the Amir, who asked HH the Crown Prince to hold the meeting with a group of MPs.

Munawer thanked HH the Crown Prince for hosting the lawmakers, but provided no details on the issues discussed. MP Saifi Al-Saifi said the "discussion was frank and aimed at serving the interests of Kuwait". He added that "we have listened to his guidance and ideas. He is a reformist, a decision-maker and a good listener". Saifi also did not provide any further details.

A third opposition MP who attended the meeting, Ahmad Al-Azemi, said on Twitter that MPs listened to HH the Crown Prince's wise guidance and "we exchanged talks on public issues". He also gave no more information. The meeting had been arranged before Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem called on Sunday for special Assembly sessions today and tomorrow to approve the budget, a move that infuriated opposition MPs, who vowed to prevent the meeting from taking place.

The opposition bloc, consisting of 31 MPs, vowed following a late night meeting on Sunday to prevent the session from taking place, saying the speaker has no right to call the special session instead of holding regular Assembly sessions. The Assembly has held only a few sessions since it was elected in December as a result of lingering disputes between the government backed by Ghanem and a few lawmakers and the opposition bloc.

Opposition MPs have resorted to occupying seats reserved for Cabinet ministers, prompting the cancellation of several sessions. They are protesting against a decision taken by the Assembly to delay grillings of HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah until the end of 2022, which the opposition says is illegal and violates the constitution.

Opposition MPs also claimed that the government in collaboration with Ghanem wants to approve the budget and then end the Assembly term, because the term cannot be closed before approving the budget. MP Hasan Jowhar said during the summer recess, the government plans to issue what is known as emergency decrees to allow the government to borrow billions of dinars, which the Assembly has stalled.

He said the government also plans to issue other decrees to impose value added tax and other forms of taxes, in addition to reducing public subsidies to raise charges on state-run services. Ghanem said on Sunday that 15 lawmakers, all of them pro-government, submitted a motion demanding the special session to approve the state budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year. Opposition MP Obaid Al-Wasmi said it is unconstitutional to hold special sessions in place of regular sessions.

For the Assembly to convene, it needs the attendance of at least 33 members to secure a quorum in the house, which has 66 MPs and Cabinet members. The government and its supporters are certain of the support of all the 16 Cabinet ministers and another 16 MPs including the speaker, which is just one member short of the required quorum. But that one spot can be filled by MP Adnan Abdulsamad, who has not yet declared his position but is normally a supporter of the government.

Leading opposition MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri said that the opposition will not allow any session to be held unless the prime minister accepts to be grilled. He expected that Cabinet ministers will attend today's session regardless if they sit in the front seats or not. He also warned that pro-government MPs could intimidate opposition lawmakers and may even assault them. A number of opposition lawmakers said they plan to sit in the seats reserved for ministers in today's session.