Kuwaiti ministers resign in new political upheaval

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A general view shows the opening session of Kuwait's newly elected parliament in Kuwait City. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

A general view shows the opening session of Kuwait's newly elected parliament in Kuwait City. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Kuwaiti ministers have resigned in protest against a government boycott of parliament on Tuesday, according to local media.

The ministers claim the government was attempting to prevent questioning of the oil minister over the payment of $2.2bn in compensation to Dow Chemical after cancelling a joint project.

Announcing their resignation, the ministers said the government’s boycott made a mockery of the Assembly and was disrespectful to MPs.

Parliament is not expected to resume on Wednesday.

The political row comes after months of relative stability in the Gulf country, which has been caught up in a long running power struggle between the elected lawmakers and the appointed government that includes members of the ruling family.

Kuwait, a major oil producer, has held five elections in six years but cooperation between the government and lawmakers following the December 2012 election had caused investors and citizens to become more positive about the country’s future.

Tensions flared again recently when MPs requested to grill Oil Minister Hani Hussein over the Dow Chemicals payment by state-owned Petrochemical Industries Company. Some MPs claim officials have profited from Kuwait’s decision to scrap the deal.

They also sought to question Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Hamoud al-Sabah, a senior ruling family member, over allegations including violation of the constitution, non-cooperation with parliament and neglecting judicial rules.

The opportunity to question a minister is one of the main ways MPs assert their influence under limited parliamentary powers. In the past such sessions have led to no confidence votes that can oust a minister.

With parliament seemingly unable to operate, the country’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah could suspend the Assembly for a month or go as far as sacking the Cabinet or dissolving the entire parliament.

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