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Two women ministers in Kuwait’s new cabinet

Cabinet includes controversial former finance minister

Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah has endorsed the new government formed by the prime minister.

The cabinet in which nine ministers in the previous formation kept their posts, includes two women, Dhikra Al Rashidi, one of three women who won seats in the December 1 elections, as minister of social affairs and labour, and Rola Dashti, who kept the portfolios of development and parliament affairs. The previous government had only one woman.

The ruling family ministers of interior, foreign and defence have remained at their ministries in the 16-member formation, while the former minister of information, another shaikh, was named state minister for cabinet affairs and municipality.

A fifth ruling family member, Shaikh Salman Al Sabah, was appointed information minister.

Shaikh Salman was one of the three ministers to enter the government for the first time. The other two were Dhikra Al Rashidi and Mohammad Al Haifi who was given the health portfolio.

Shaikh Salman was also asked to be in charge of the youth ministry, a new addition to the cabinet, the 11th since 2006 and the 32nd since independence in 1961.

Fadhel Safar, Jamal Al Shihab and Ali Al Abaidi, three ministers in the outgoing cabinet, were not re-appointed .

However, two former ministers but who were not in the outgoing cabinet, Mustafa Al Shamali and Sharida Al Maosherji, have been appointed.

Al Shamali, a former finance minister, was forced to resign in May following a grilling by the opposition over allegations of corruption and mismanagement. He denied both charges.

He is now expected to implement the KD 30.7 billion four-year development plan.

The appointment of Al Maosherji, a former state minister for parliament affairs as minister justice and minister of endowments and Islamic affairs is seen by Kuwaiti media as “a reward for the group of Salafis who backed the government on holding the parliamentary elections on December and resisted calls by boycotters, including another branch of the Salafis.

The only minister to change portfolios was Mohammad Abdullah Al Mubarak who moved from the information to the cabinet and municipality ministry.

None of the Kuwaitis who supported the boycott were nominated to the cabinet. Several MPs in the new parliament said that they would not endorse their appointment.

The cabinet does not include members of the Muslim Brotherhood, either.

The government is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Sunday.

Following the election of a new parliament and the formation of the cabinet, the focus will now be on the name of the Speaker, one of the most powerful positions in Kuwait.

Although several lawmaker have said that they would seek the position, the contest is likely to be confined to leading MPs Ali Al Rashed and Ali Al Omair.

On Wednesday, the race seemed too tight to call.

However, MP Ahmad Lari said that the Shiite bloc, with 17 of the parliament’s 50 seats, is likely to vote for Ali Al Rashed who reportedly has positive rapport with Shiites. The contest could eventually be decided by the 16 votes of the government members in the second round when only the top two scorers in the first round are allowed to run.

Invitations had been sent out to opposition former lawmakers who boycotted the parliamentary elections to attend the inaugural session. Reports said that some MPs declined to take them.

The opposition, left to lick wounds following the unexpected turnout at the polling stations despite predictions of a limited number showing up to cast their ballots, has pledged to stage several demonstrations and engage in a series of actions locally and internationally to bring down the parliament and to have fresh elections under the principle of “one voter, four votes.”

An amendment to the 2006 electoral law scrapped the principle and slashed the number of candidates a voter can elect to one.

The move caused uproar among the opposition, made up mainly of tribal and religious figures, who saw it as a move to curb their influence.

A series of rallies and street protests have resulted in clashes between demonstrators and anti-riot police and injuries on both sides.