Kuwait replaces oil minister in new cabinet

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Mohammad al-Baseeri changes portfolios in the new Kuwaiti cabinet announced on Sunday
© AFP/File Yasser al-Zayyat

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – Veteran Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad Al-Sabah formed a new cabinet on Sunday, dropping his oil minister, but without appeasing the opposition in Kuwait’s parliament.

Former communications minister Mohammed al-Baseeri, a veteran Islamist politician, was given the oil portfolio in Sheikh Ahmad, a member of the Gulf state’s ruling family.

Apart from changes to the key oil and commerce ministries, the new lineup includes six new faces compared to the government which resigned on March 31 over a dispute with parliament.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah swore in the 16-member team presented by the premier, the state-run KUNA news agency reported.

But immediately after the new cabinet lineup was announced, several MPs strongly criticised it, saying the changes did not meet people’s aspirations, and vowed to question the premier and at least one other minister.

Newcomer Amani Buresli, an academic, was appointed minister of commerce and industry, while the deputy premier for economic affairs, Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, and Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali were retained.

Besides the prime minister, the new cabinet includes four members of the Al-Sabah ruling family, one less than in the previous cabinet. They continue to hold the key posts of defence, interior and foreign affairs.

Newcomers include Sami al-Nasef, a liberal writer, as information and communications minister, Ahmad al-Mulaifi, a former liberal MP as education minister and Salem al-Othaina, an independent academic, as electricity and water minister.

During the swearing-in ceremony, the emir urged Kuwait’s government and parliament to cooperate in the service of the country, which has been rocked by almost non-stop political crises during the past five years.

However, the government came under fire immediately from opposition MPs.

MP Khaled al-Tahus, a member of the Popular Action Bloc which has four lawmakers, said the Bloc would grill the premier in parliament on Tuesday over allegations of squandering public funds.

Independent MP Saadun Hammad also said he would also seek to question Health Minister Helal al-Sayer over charges of financial and administrative irregularities.

Several other opposition MPs were also unimpressed.

“The new cabinet does not meet the aspirations of the Kuwaiti people or the expectations of the legislature … There will be major confrontations between the government and MPs,” independent lawmaker, Salem al-Namlan, told reporters.

The previous cabinet resigned more than five weeks ago following a showdown with parliament after MPs moved to question in parliament three ministers from the ruling family.

Two of those ministers, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah and Sheikh Ahmad, were however retained in the new cabinet.

Since May 2006, Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the ruler, resigned six times and parliament was dissolved three times over political disputes between the government and the opposition.

In January, the prime minister narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in parliament following a grilling over allegations that he breached the constitution and suppressed freedom.

Kuwait, OPEC’s fifth largest producer, sits on about 10 percent of global proven crude reserves and has an estimated $300 billion of surplus, but development has been hampered by continued political squabbling.