20200930 Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Kuwait has temporarily handed its crown prince some of the ruling emir’s constitutional duties, the royal family’s secretariat announced on Monday, without explaining why the transfer was necessary.

The brief statement published by the state-run KUNA news agency said only that the government had issued an order for the crown prince to assume some duties of ruling emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah.

Last year, when the late Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah underwent surgery, the Gulf nation’s crown prince took on some of his powers temporarily.

The decree comes at a delicate time for Kuwait. The government resigned last week as tensions escalated between the Parliament and Cabinet. The emir issued a long-awaited pardon for scores of self-exiled dissidents. Efforts to strengthen the economy have been hindered by a long running dispute between the legislature and an executive appointed by the ruling family.

Kuwait, a nation home to 4.1 million people has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves. Sheikh Nawaf assumed power in September 2020 after the death of his half-brother. Kuwait, whose 1.5 million citizens are among the world’s wealthiest by average per capita income, is home to about 8.5 per cent of global oil reserves, according to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

On Saturday, the emir issued an amnesty decree, pardoning and reducing the sentences of nearly three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents in a move aimed at defusing the government standoff.

The royal decree, published late Saturday in Kuwait’s official gazette, said the Emir had cut the sentences of 11 politicians who had landed in prison for storming the country’s parliament, as well as pardoning and softening the sentences of 24 others.

Photos shared on Kuwaiti social media on Sunday showed families of the inmates crowded outside the country’s Central Prison, embracing and weeping their pardoned relatives dressed in white garb.