Kuwaiti court nullifies 2012 polls, reinstates previous house |
Kuwait Times - 21 June, 2012
In an unprecedented verdict that sent shockwaves across the country, the constitutional court yesterday annulled the February general elections and reinstated the previous National Assembly that was dissolved in December last year.
Opposition MPs vented anger against the ruling and those who were MPs in the previous Assembly immediately submitted their resignation while others threatened to mobilise the people back to the streets to protest the decision.
At least 24 MPs in the previous Assembly elected in 2009 submitted their resignation, saying they will not “be honoured to be members in an Assembly where some of its members are accused of corruption”.
The government held an emergency session and reviewed the necessary procedures that should be taken to implement the court ruling and decided to continue the meeting today to take the decision, Information Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah told a press conference.
The court ruling came after several Kuwaiti citizens challenged the Amiri decree that dissolved the previous National Assembly in December last year, saying the decree was sent to HH the Amir by an “illegal government” and accordingly should be nullified.
The court declared that the elections held on Feb 2, 2012 are nullified because the Amiri decree dissolving the previous Assembly and a second decree inviting Kuwaitis to elect the new Assembly were unconstitutional.
The ruling as a result scrapped the outcome of the elections including the membership of MPs who were elected in the Feb 2 polls. The verdict also said that the previous assembly must regain its constitutional powers “as if the dissolution had not taken place”.
The court said that the two decrees were unconstitutional because they were recommended by an illegal Cabinet, which means that the procedures were flawed, thus requiring to nullify the outcome.
Former prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah was forced to resign late November last year following youth-led street protests after two alleged corruption scandals were exposed.
The Amir accepted the resignation on Nov 28 and asked Cabinet ministers to continue in their posts until a new Cabinet is formed. A few days later, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah was appointed new prime minister and he took the oath before the Amir.
Sheikh Jaber continued to lead the old Cabinet, raising question marks about whether the Cabinet was legal or not. During this time, the “suspect” Cabinet approved on Dec 6 a decree to dissolve the Assembly which the Amir issued. After some time, a new Cabinet was formed but without including any MP, which is a precondition for the legality of any government.
This new Cabinet approved another decree inviting people to vote in the new election.
The constitutional court, whose rulings are final, said both decrees are illegal and accordingly all the results based on them, including the February elections are nullified.
The opposition is the major loser from the verdict since it had a comfortable majority in the scrapped Assembly following its impressive victory. Opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak described the ruling as a “coup” against the constitution, saying that the events in Kuwait are similar to what happened in Egypt last week when the constitutional court there ordered the dissolution of parliament.
All 17 MPs in the new Assembly who were members in the previous Assembly immediately submitted their resignation and were followed by seven others who failed to get reelected. Opposition MPs hope that a sufficient number of MPs will resign so as to lead to dissolving the reinstated Assembly and holding fresh elections.
The information minister declined to answer a question on whether the government will recommend to the Amir to issue a fresh decree dissolving the reinstated Assembly. But he said that the objective reasons for issuing the old decree to dissolve the previous Assembly “still exist” and the government is still studying the issue.
Lawyer Yacoub Al-Sane, who had filed one of several lawsuits on behalf of Ali Al-Rashed, a pro-government member of the previous parliament, said the ruling was based on the fact the government which recommended the parliament’s dissolution was “unconstitutional”.
Rashed himself welcomed the ruling and congratulated the Kuwaiti people for the ruling. Youth groups immediately called on its activists to gather in front of the Assembly building to protest against the court ruling. MPs Riyad Al-Adasani and Khaled Al-Sultan vowed they will expose the results of investigations parliamentary committees have undertaken regarding allegations of corruption.
Adasani said that “being a member of the illegal deposits probe committee, I confirm that millions of dinars were illegally deposited into the accounts of some former MPs”. He vowed to reveal more details.
Sultan said that some thefts of public funds had taken place and there are documents to condemn the former prime minister, adding that KD 480 million was spent and the former finance minister signed them. He did not elaborate.
MP Abdullatif Al-Ameeri said that “all should remember that we now have facts about the corruption cases like bank deposits, foreign transfers and diesel smuggling and these will be revealed to the Kuwaiti people”.
Former MP Rola Dashti, who is now reinstated, welcomed the court verdict. “We have no doubt that decrees issued under pressure are void. This verdict should be written in gold, because we have just judges and the Kuwaiti people are tired.
I tell the current MPs ‘thank you’, and it is the right of the former assembly to resume its authority”. Dashti denied the court ruling was ‘unconstitutional’. “The verdict is not a plot against the constitution, it is the implementation of the constitution,” she said.
The consequences of the court ruling are expected to continue today with opposition MPs expected to hold meetings to coordinate their next moves. But the most expected scenario, according to analysts and observers, is that the government will recommend to the Amir to dissolve the current Assembly to restore the previous one.
Then, the government will approve another decree recommending to dissolve the reinstated assembly to open the way for holding fresh elections, the second in a less than five months and the fifth in past six years.
Analysts also said yesterday’s ruling would not be welcomed by many voters who backed opposition politicians due to the allegations of financial irregularities against some former lawmakers.
“The previous parliament is completely unpopular,” said Abdullah Al-Shayji, a political science professor at Kuwait University. “It does not have the support of the majority of Kuwaitis who voted for the new parliament and rejected most of the (former) parliamentarians who were rumoured to be involved in the (corruption) scandal.”
But some investors said the court’s ruling to dissolve parliament was a positive step as a protracted row between the government and parliament had long delayed economic reforms and held up vital development projects.
“The old parliament being reinstated is likely to benefit the private sector. I expect to see some positive reaction in the market,” said Talal Al-Hunaif, senior investment analyst at Coast Investment and Development Co.
“The country is suffering from constant political unrest and we saw no positive effect on the market since the new parliament was elected.”
After the old parliament reconvenes, analysts in Kuwait expect that elections will be called within 60 days. “This glitch has caused chaos and delay, but it’s the ruling of the highest court and it can’t be challenged,” said Ghanim Al-Najjar, a political science professor at Kuwait University. Najjar said there are fears that the 2009 parliament would remain in office, but he said that was unlikely.
“If they do that, it will be considered a challenge to the choice of the people, and the government cannot afford to do that,” he said. Political analyst Anwar Al-Rasheed said the ruling will escalate already high political tension in Kuwait unless the Amir dissolves the reinstated parliament again and calls for fresh polls.
“This historical ruling will certainly lead to intensifying the political crisis in the country that has been suffering for a long time,” Rasheed said.