MPs vote during a parliament session at Kuwait's National Assembly in Kuwait City on April 16, 2013
MPs vote during a parliament session at Kuwait's National Assembly in Kuwait City on April 16, 2013. Kuwait's government has boycotted a parliament session after MPs filed requests to grill the oil and interior ministers over alleged violations, including a $2.2 billion penalty payment to US Dow Chemical. © Yasser al-Zayyat - AFP/File
MPs vote during a parliament session at Kuwait's National Assembly in Kuwait City on April 16, 2013
AFP
Last updated: May 14, 2013

Kuwaiti government shuns parliament after grilling bid

Kuwait's cabinet on Tuesday offered to resign after MPs filed to grill ministers over a payment to a US firm, the parliament speaker said, although it was unclear if the premier forwarded the resignations to the emir.

"I was informed that the ministers have submitted their resignations to the prime minister and accordingly there will be no (parliament) session tomorrow," Ali al-Rashed told reporters outside parliament, following a meeting with the justice minister.

It was not immediately known if Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, has submitted the cabinet's resignation to the emir.

Under Kuwaiti law, the cabinet can resign only after the prime minister submits his and the ministers' resignations to the ruler who has the final say.

The development came after MPs filed requests to grill the oil and interior ministers over alleged violations including a $2.2-billion penalty payment to US firm Dow Chemical.

Earlier on Tuesday, cabinet ministers boycotted a parliament session apparently in protest over the two grilling requests and speaker Rashed called the session off.

Parliament sessions cannot be held in Kuwait without the presence of at least one cabinet minister.

It was the first standoff between the cabinet and MPs seen as loyal to the government following the December 1 elections boycotted by all opposition groups.

Local media reported Tuesday that Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah was expected to invoke a clause in the constitution that allows him to suspend parliament for one month.

The break will take the oil-rich Gulf emirate, which has been embroiled in a bitter political crisis for a year, to a decisive ruling by the constitutional court on June 16 regarding the controversy over the amendment of the electoral law.

The court will rule whether the amendment, which was ordered by the emir last year, is in line with the constitution and could order parliament dissolved for the second time in one year.

Opposition groups insisted the amendment was illegal and provided the government with the tools to impact the polls results.

Islamist MP Khaled al-Shulaimi strongly lashed out at the government boycott.

"Parliament has been very cooperative for five months... and today's boycott is a proof that the problem has always been with the government, even in previous parliaments," Shulaimi told reporters.

MP Shulaimi also said the government wants to prevent the questioning of a suspicious move to pay the penalty to Dow Chemical which is a "real financial and economic catastrophe".

Other MPs said the government was afraid to face parliament.

Last week, state-owned Petrochemical Industries Co. (PIC) said it had reached a final settlement with Dow Chemical to pay the US giant about $2.2 billion (1.7 billion euros).

The US firm said it has received the payment, a move that caused a storm of criticism in the OPEC member state where Dow has a multi-billion-dollar joint petrochemicals project.

The government boycott however cannot stop the grillings from being debated in parliament but can delay them.

If debated, they might lead to no-confidence votes that may oust the ministers in this major oil-producing emirate.

They would also be the first such grillings under the pro-government parliament .

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