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Opinions vary amid turmoil over landmark court ruling – Govt advisors blamed, tribes return to polls
June 17, 2013, 11:14 pm

A dissolved parliament, a decree to amend the electoral system being upheld, and a decision by the opposition to continue protesting: While the Constitutional Court’s ruling did not yield any unexpected results, opinions varied on whether it would put an end to Kuwait’s political crisis or cause more turmoil in the country.

One newspaper described the ruling as signaling of the end of “a chapter of political conflict,” and the beginning of “a new stage in which balance is restored inside the Abdullah Al-Salem Hall and the political scene alike.” “First of all, the ruling eliminated the credentials based on which the opposition claimed that the singlevote decree was unconstitutional, which effectively closed all protest channels in front of them while bringing them face-to-face with legal verdicts that are far from political games,” Al-Qabas reported yesterday in an analysis that depicted that the ruling “paved the way for stability.”

The daily further indicated that holding elections as per the singlevote system leads to a change in the methods that political forces use to influence the public “when electoral coalitions are eliminated,” in addition to the changed parliamentary formation “after tribal and other political groups which boycotted [December’s] elections return to the scene.” In its historic ruling, the Constitutional Court declared a state of emergency, after which HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah exercised his right, as per article 71 of the constitution, to issue an emergency decree to amend the electoral system.

The ruling defends the single-vote system, which replaced the one that entitled each voter to four votes by saying that it “allows the minority to be represented in the parliament” and “frees voters from candidates’ pressure.” The ruling affirmed that the decree was necessary to “serve the national interest” by addressing an issue “that risked the unity and social fabric of the nation.” The ruling also led to a second Amiri decree to establish the National Election Committee unconstitutional on grounds that the state’s interest is “much greater than that of a committee,” an argument based on which the emergency decree was issued. “The ruling is a reaffirmation of the Constitutional Court’s important role in issuance of emergency decrees,” constitutional expert and Kuwait University Professor Dr Mohammad Al-Feeli told Al-Qabas.

He was also quoted by Al-Rai yesterday as saying that the verdict was “a message to the government and political forces that leniency in matters relating to emergency is unacceptable, and that the issuance of emergency decrees as well as determination of a state of emergency are still under the court’s watch.” With the controversy over the single vote system’s constitutionality appearing to be over, Dr. Al-Feeli explained that laws passed by the now-dissolved parliament remain intact “yet are open for review if they were challenged in the future.” He further indicated that elections must be held within 60 days of the parliament’s dissolution. However, an exact date cannot be determined until the dissolution order is published in Kuwait’s official gazette. If that happens next Sunday (June 21), the elections will be held before August 23, which falls right after the post-Ramadan “Eid Al-Fitr” holidays.

The general mood in the dissolved parliament was optimistic, with most MPs calling for “honoring” the verdict, although they accused government advisors of making recommendations that spawned faulty procedures and led to the parliament’s dissolution. “We demand a decision to dismiss the chairman of the Fatwa and the Legislation Department who are responsible for the emergency decree establishing the National Elections Committee”, now former MP Abdulhameed Dashty said, reflecting the opinion of many former MPs. And in a shift of position, Kuwaitis were called to head to the polls, and tribal chiefs announced their intention to take part in the upcoming elections after welcoming the Constitutional Court ruling.

Leading figures from the Shemmar, Awazem, Mutair, Harb, Hajr, Anza and Ghanim tribes urged their tribesmen to honor the ruling, in statements made to Al-Rai. The same daily also spoke with representatives of student unions who called on the public to vote in the upcoming elections. In the meantime, most economists that Al-Rai contacted said the ruling will leave a “positive effect” on the national economy. However, some of them noted that economic growth could be slowed down due to the latest political developments. The parliament’s dissolution has raised many questions about the fate of social affairs and labor minister Thekra Al-Rashidi, who was the only elected member of the cabinet.

In that regard, Dr Al-Feeli said Al-Rashidi’s position would remain safe until the new parliament is elected “at which point the cabinet is required as per the constitution to submit its resignation”. Dr Al- Feeli reiterated, however, that Al- Rashidi would have to resign if she decides to contest in the upcoming elections.—Agencies

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