Manama: Amid warnings that some forces were plotting to disrupt political stability, Kuwait has announced candidates wishing to run for parliament seats in the second and third constituencies have 10 days, starting Thursday, to sign up.
The two constituencies on March 16 will hold by-elections to replace two lawmakers who were ousted by the constitutional court in a legal battle that divided lawmakers over its merits and decreased the power of Islamists.
The Constitutional Court on December 17 ruled that former MPs Waleed Al Tabtabaie and Jamaan Al Harbesh must serve time in jail as decided by the Cassation Court, which upheld rulings pronounced by lower courts.
The two ex-MPs, currently out of Kuwait, were among a group of 67 defendants who stormed the parliament building in November 2011 during a rally calling for the resignation or removal of then Prime Minister Shaikh Nasser Al Mohammad.
The case remained pending until December 2013 when the Criminal Court acquitted all suspects.
However, the Court of Appeals in November 2017 rejected the ruling, and sentenced the defendants to jail terms ranging from one to nine years.
The verdict was confirmed by the Cassation Court, the highest court in the country, in May.
However, parliament in October and under the umbrella of Article 16 of its bylaws voted to keep the membership of the two lawmakers.
The case was referred to the Constitutional Court which ruled that Article 16 was unconstitutional, annulling the parliament’s decision and ordering the two lawmakers to serve their prison terms.
The judges argued that Article 16 made court rulings “hostage” to the will of the parliament and amounted to blatant interference in legal instances and a violation of the principle of separation of powers.
“Lawmakers are not above or beyond the law. Immunity is not a privilege, but is part of public interest,” the judges said.
“Lawmakers have no more rights than any other Kuwaiti to comply with the law. The law must take its course for all people without discrimination and the lawmakers’ immunity is not intended to confront decisions, nor is it a means of breaking the law with impunity.”
However, the chances of conservative lawmakers re-asserting their influence within the north Arabian Gulf state political sphere cannot be underestimated.
Lawmakers may resort to filing motions to question ministers and even the prime minister in a bid that could in the long run lead to the dissolution of parliament and a call for fresh elections.
Several lawmakers have already hinted they would calm the situation should the government agree to an amnesty that would help peers and supporters to leave or avoid prison or to the reinstatement of Kuwaiti citizenships that had been revoked from some families.
On Sunday, Speaker Marzooq Al Ganem spoke about the existence of “Kuwaiti parties abroad seeking to suspend the constitution, force people to reject democracy, extol them to take to the streets and create an Arab Spring”, referring to the popular upheavals that occurred in some Arab countries in 2011 and led mainly to political chaos, social rifts and economic hardships.
“These parties do not want to see stability in the country and they have their tools within the Kuwaiti parliament. They believe that any issue must be exploited and that this parliament must be dissolved. Some even want to go further,” he said in remarks to Kuwaiti daily Al Rai this week.
“They are always keen on concocting an issue to bring their teams together and try to get people out on the street for the sake of a new Arab Spring. However, on the other hand, there are those who have reasonable positions that at times lose some of their electoral assets because the performance of the government is not up to the expectations and thus does not help them.”