The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: A surprising statement issued by former opposition MPs and activists who have been living in self-exile in Turkey yesterday openly criticized certain measures taken by the opposition lawmakers and welcomed calls for a national dialogue under the auspices of His Highness the Amir. The statement is likely to disrupt the opposition camp which has so far been united and maintaining strong and close ties with the self-exiled former MPs.

The statement, signed by five former MPs, including Mussallam Al-Barrak, and four activists particularly criticized the opposition lawmakers for not attending a crucial assembly session held to allow the then new government to take the oath in the assembly.

The opposition lawmakers had boycotted the session in a bid to prevent it from going ahead but the government managed a bare majority and held the session. Following the taking oath ceremony, the assembly rejected a draft law calling for a general pardon on jailed politicians. Had the opposition been in attendance, the bill would have passed.

The statement also criticized the opposition lawmakers for disrupting sessions while protesting against a decision to protect His Highness the Prime Minister from being questioned. It said their tactic effectively protected other ministers against grillings.

The statement said that they have learned that members of the opposition bloc in the assembly have proposed to hold a national dialogue between the government and the assembly under the auspices of His Highness the Amir. They welcomed the proposal but insisted that any dialogue must be preceded with an understanding on the pardon in order to achieve a wider national reconciliation.

The former MPs and activists left Kuwait for Turkey more than three years ago to escape jail terms issued by the court of cassation which convicted them of storming the National Assembly building following a protest in 2011. Many attempts have been made to secure the return of the former lawmakers but all have reached a deadlock with assembly speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem openly telling them to seek a pardon from His Highness the Amir as the only way.

A leading former MP Faisal Al-Muslim, who is also in Turkey, was the only one who did not sign the statement, saying on Twitter that he was contacted late and that he did not want to criticize opposition lawmakers. So far, there has been no comment on the statement from any opposition MP. Hours before that, opposition MPs issued a statement in which they reiterated their rejection to participate in the government, insisting that the government had violated the constitution.

Ghanem said last week that new initiatives have been made to break the political deadlock in the country without elaborating. He expressed the hope that a breakthrough is expected before the start of the next assembly term in late October. Kuwait has been rocked with a non-stop political crisis since the election of the new assembly last year.