New crisis looms as Kuwaiti MPs move to quiz PM

Following police crackdown on a Kuwait public rally


Twenty Kuwaiti opposition MPs resolved Thursday to press ahead with plans to question the prime minister in parliament following a police crackdown on a public rally, MP Jamaan al-Harbash said.

"We have decided to quiz the prime minister and the motion will be filed on Sunday," Harbash told reporters following a meeting of the opposition lawmakers.

The meeting came after the elite special forces on Wednesday used batons to beat up participants and MPs at a public rally west of Kuwait City.

Medics and witnesses said at least five people were injured, while local media on Thursday put the number of those hurt at 14, including four lawmakers.

The rally was the second in a series of opposition protests against an alleged "government plot" to amend the 1962 constitution, which made Kuwait the first Arab state in the Gulf to embrace parliamentary democracy.

The new wave of protests came as opposition MPs charged that the government and its supporters were trying to undermine the status of the constitution in a bid to suppress freedom and democracy.

Several opposition blocs in parliament formed a loose group to defend the constitution.

Opposition MPs on Thursday held Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a senior member of the al-Sabah ruling family, responsible for the police attack.

MP Khaled al-Tahus said the attack on the rally was "premeditated" and warned it will have "serious consequences on the government."

"The situation is too grave ... This only takes place in repressive countries ... The country is passing through a serious turning point," Tahus, a member of the nationalist Popular Action Bloc, told reporters.

Independent MP Mubarak al-Waalan called for the government to step down. "It's time for this government to go."

Kuwait, OPEC's fifth-largest producer, has a 50-member parliament. The 16 cabinet ministers, of whom 15 are unelected, automatically become members of parliament and have similar voting rights as elected MPs.

The emirate has been rocked by a series of political crises over the past five years that led the ruler to dissolve parliament three times, while the cabinet has resigned five times.