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Kuwait Emir pays tribute to constitution

Televised address to nation calls for protecting democratic tradition

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad on Saturday paid rich tribute to the country’s constitution, saying that it was the “robust guarantee of the viability of the state and the vivacity of the society.”

“We have lived through five decades of parliamentary life that included sweet and bitter times,” Shaikh Sabah said as the country celebrated 50 years of the constitution. “However, in order to reap the fruits of our parliamentary progress, we must shield our experience with objective assessment and self-criticism. There is nothing wrong when there are some issues, but the real problem is when they are ignored or when they are not addressed or eliminated,” Shaikh Sabah said in a televised address to the nation.

The emir said that Kuwaitis appreciated the fact that differences existed on how to go about various issues of national importance. “We do accept criticism and advice in order to elevate the standards of our institutions. We also welcome and do call for holding any official responsible for any deficiency or failure or financial abuse or law violation. We do work together for the sake of the nation because that is our main concern and common objective,” he said.

Shaikh Sabah said democratic progress requires balance and moderation in addressing any issue. “Protecting our forward-looking exercise of democracy requires moderation in dealing with issues with wisdom, far-sightedness, good appreciation and an avoidance of sudden reactions. We have witnessed how nations that had been blinded by ignorance and fanaticism were torn apart and destroyed.”

Kuwait has been bitterly divided over the merit of the parliamentary elections to be held on December 1. Under a recent amendment of the 2006 electoral law, the number of candidates a voter can elect was reduced from four to one. The number of electoral constituencies was kept at five.

The government said that the amendment was within the emir’s prerogatives stipulated in the constitution and insisted that those who respected the constitution had to accept it. However, the opposition sees the amendment as a move by the government to curb its influence.

Opposition figures said that there were issues with the application of the constitution and highlighted specific articles that vest power in the parliament.

In his speech, the emir said that Kuwait was facing critical times and formidable challenges. “We are at a stage of challenges that cannot tolerate leniency and the lack of effective determination and decisive decisions. We need to move away from anything that disperses efforts and wastes energy,” he said. “We will have a new positive era that reinstates trust in our constitutional institutions, consolidates common collective action and respects opinions based on the rule of the law.”

Kuwait’s constitution was drafted in 1962 by a constituent assembly of 20 members elected by the people.