Kuwaiti politicians to quiz premier

Kuwaiti policy-makers have decided to quiz the prime minister after a controversial vote in parliament on an electoral reform bill.

    Pro-reform MPs want to avert vote-buying in next elections

    MP Muhammad al-Saqar told Kuwaiti demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament late on Tuesday after parliament passed a controversial motion to refer an electoral reform bill to the constitutional court: "We have decided to question the prime minister."


    The attempt to question the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a member of the ruling family, could set the stage either for the dismissal of the cabinet or the dissolution of parliament by the emir.


    "The questioning would be withdrawn only if the government backs off and presents the (electoral reform) bill of five constituencies," al-Saqr said.


    He named the three MPs lined up to quiz the prime minister as Ahmed al-Saadoun, Ahmed al-Muleifi and Faisal al-Muslim, an Islamist.


    "The questioning would be withdrawn only if the government backs off and presents the (electoral reform) bill of five constituencies"

    Muhammad al-Saqar, Kuwaiti MP

    The opposition MPs will present their request to the parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi on Wednesday, Islamist MP Waleed  al-Tabtabai said.


    Later, the prime minister sent a conciliatory signal saying the government was "prepared to discuss any fresh proposal by MPs" and to halt sending the election bill to court. He appealed for resolving the issue through dialogue.


    Electoral reform

    Kuwait's parliament had passed a controversial motion to refer an electoral reform bill to the constitutional court amid a boycott by reformist legislators who want to stop alleged vote-buying.

    Thirty-three policy-makers, including 16 cabinet ministers, voted on Tuesday in favour of the motion submitted by the conservative and the tribal policy-makers the previous day.

    Their vote caused a walkout by reformist members of parliament in scenes unprecedented in the conservative Gulf state.


    Only parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi voted against the motion.


    About 30 reformist policy-makers gathered outside the parliament, where hundreds of members of the elite special forces, armed with batons, were deployed to stop the public from entering.


    Vote buying


    Kuwaiti reformists have staged


    Parliament broke up in chaos on Monday when the reformers walked out as voting began on the motion to refer the government-backed bill, reducing the number of constituencies to 10 from 25, to the constitutional court.


    The reformist MPs want to go further and reduce the number of constituencies to five, in an attempt to fight vote-buying and other irregularities they say marred Kuwait's last general election in 2003.


    They were angered by the government's change of heart and support for the conservative-backed motion, staging their walkout amid cheers from the gallery.


     Reformists' supporters rallied outside the parliament on Tuesday chanting slogans demanding that electoral districts should be cut to five.


    The boycotting MPs met after the vote to decide their next step, with several saying one of their main options was to seek to intensely question the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah.



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