Arab Protests Spread to Kuwait, Forcing Government Resignation
In what some are calling a new Arab Spring, popular protests have swept across multiple Arab nations including Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and now Kuwait.
On Thursday, the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Jaber al-Sabah, accepted the resignation of the Kuwaiti government which has been beset recently by corruption charges. The resignation comes two years after the government was sworn in.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the emir ordered the cabinet to serve as a caretaker government, until a new cabinet is formed.
A spokesperson for the Kuwaiti government was quoted by the Alhurra Arabic-language news website as saying that Prime Minister Jaber Mubarak al-Ahmad al-Sabah had already submitted his personal resignation to the emir.
Both the Minister of Public Works and Minister of Finance face charges of financial corruption and two parliamentary requests for questioning. Kuwait’s Minister of Interior Sheikh Khaled al-Sabah was also subject to questioning by the Kuwaiti parliament over similar charges.
Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Arabic-language newspaper Alqabas reported that Kuwaiti deputy prime minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who is also the minister of defense, referred a number of financial corruption allegations within the Army Fund to the general prosecutor of Kuwait.
Alhurra reported that last week hundreds of local Kuwaiti youth gathered outside the Kuwaiti Assembly of the Nation (parliament) to protest what they described as corruption within state-run institutions.
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According to Middle East Monitor, the protests were sparked at the country’s iconic Erada Square by former members of parliament and some Bidoons, a social class without a nationality. Concurrently, a number of Arab countries, including neighboring Iraq and Lebanon are witnessing similar popular protests over frustration with poor economic conditions.
The resignation of Kuwait’s government on Thursday came after Kuwaiti legislators on Tuesday submitted a vote of no-confidence against Interior Minister Sheikh Khaled al-Jarrah al-Sabah, who is a senior member of the ruling al-Sabah family. Members of the ruling al-Sabah family hold the majority of senior ministerial posts within the Kuwaiti government.
However, the emir of Kuwait has the upper hand as he selects the prime minister, and he has the final say in state matters. In previous similar occasions, the emir of Kuwait ordered cabinet reshuffling and has even dissolved the Kuwaiti parliament, also known as the Assembly of the Nation.
The oil-rich Kuwait, which is a member of the six-member Gulf States Cooperation Council has seen frequent parliamentary motions of no-confidence against senior government officials since 2011 when Kuwait saw similar protests demanding social and economic reforms. The protests coincided with the Arab Spring protests that swept across a number of Arab countries.
Kuwait was established back in 1756 and was first ruled by Sabah I Jaber Alahmad al-Sabah. In the late 19 century, the country’s rulers sought separation from the Ottoman empire and moved closer to Great Britain until officially becoming a British protectorate after World War I. One year after independence from the British mandate in 1961, Kuwait established its own parliament “Assembly of the Nation.”
In 1990, when neighboring Iraq under former late President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Kuwait’s ties with the United States were drastically strengthened, as the US mobilized an international military intervention against Saddam Hussein.