DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Kuwait’s Constitutional Court on Sunday ordered the expulsion of the country’s most active opposition lawmaker from parliament, fueling tensions between the government and the legislature and exposing the limits of political freedom in the Persian Gulf.
The court revoked Bader al-Dahum’s membership in the currently suspended parliament, citing an old conviction for insulting the late emir. The ruling sparked outrage among his fellow lawmakers, who at the time acquitted al-Dahumi of defamation, paving the way for him to run in last year’s parliamentary elections.
Al-Dahum has become known in Kuwait for his violent protests against the government. In recent weeks, disagreements between the Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the country’s newly elected parliament have escalated. Although the Kuwaiti parliament is more democratic than other sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, its powers remain limited. Legislators can legislate to interrogate ministers, even though the emir retains final authority and members of the ruling family hold senior positions.
Earlier this year, the government resigned following a spate of legislators over new appointments, and the emir then suspended parliament for a month on February 18 to ease tensions. The impasse pushed oil-rich Kuwait into the worst financial crisis in decades, hampering all efforts for political and social reform.
As lawmakers gathered on Sunday to discuss further steps, mistrust was growing. Legislators questioned the political motives in the court ruling, with 28 lawmakers calling for urgent legal changes to reduce the court’s influence over the elected parliament.
The move comes as Kuwaiti opposition figures weaken as parliament’s suspension, a nationwide coronavirus curfew banning residents from gathering and leaving their homes after 5 p.m.
Kuwaiti political analyst Mohammed al-Youssef said the decision was “an attempt by the government to remove a harsh critic from the political arena.” “This is a bad sign for how the government will deal with dissent.”