/ 15 May 2006

Kuwait Parliament breaks up in chaos

The Kuwaiti Parliament broke up in chaos on Monday when reformist MPs walked out in protest at attempts to block a redrawing of constituencies intended to counter alleged vote-buying.

The reformers left the session when voting began on a motion tabled by conservative and tribal MPs that sought to refer a government-backed Bill reducing the number of constituencies from 25 to 10 to the Constitutional Court.

Twenty-eight of Parliament’s 50 MPs walked out when a government minister became the first to vote in favour of the motion.

Chants of ”Down with the government”, ”Long live Kuwait” and ”We want five [constituencies]”, came from a packed gallery as the MPs mounted the unprecedented walkout.

The reformist MPs want to go further than the government Bill and slash the number of constituencies to five in a bid to fight vote-buying and other irregularities they say marred Kuwait’s last general elections in 2003.

Government members and their supporters in Parliament left after the opposition walkout, prompting the reformist MPs to return and demand the resignation of the Cabinet.

”The Kuwaiti people have stated clearly today [Monday] that this government is not credible. It had better go,” Hassan Jawhar told Agence France-Presse.

”This government has effectively fallen and it should not stay one day longer,” echoed liberal MP Ali al-Rashed.

Parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi said the session would resume on Tuesday to vote on the motion to refer the government Bill to the constitutional court but the public would be excluded.

Asked by reporters if Monday’s stormy session might lead to the dissolution of Parliament, Khorafi said this was up to Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

The ruler of oil-rich Kuwait has executive powers to disband the elected legislature. — AFP