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04KUWAIT1876 2004-06-16 06:54:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kuwait
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 001876 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/14/2014



1. (C) SUMMARY: The June 12 special session of parliament to
discuss the reduction of electoral constituencies dissolved
into bickering and shouting matches ultimately leading to the
adjournment of the session. Too few MPs support any one of
the three proposals being considered and there appear even to
be several competing factions within the Cabinet, as the GOK
has proposed two diverging plans while Mohammed Dhaifallah
Sharar, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of State for Cabinet
Affairs, and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs,
has questioned the constitutionality of both. Both the GOK
and various MPs appear intent on obstructing any genuine
efforts to debate constituency reform. Another special
session on this topic has been scheduled for June 19, but its
prospects are not obviously better. END SUMMARY.

(U) Saturday's Special Session


2. (SBU) The June 12 special session of parliament was held
with the aim of determining which of three constituency
reform proposals would be brought to the floor for debate and
possible passage: two presented by the GOK and one by the
Assembly's Interior and Defense Affairs Committee. What
appeared to be a straightforward assignment turned into a day
of endless shouting matches and sophomoric stall tactics from
both members of parliament and the Cabinet. One news daily
described the shouts and cries from MPs interrupting basic
procedures as "scenes rarely seen in the National Assembly."
After an opening 20 minute argument between Speaker Jassem
Al-Khorafi and several MPs on whether or not to even read the
proposals to be debated, it was clear that the MPs were
largely divided on which proposal to support, if any at all.
Included in the debate were the usual arguments that the
current system promotes corruption while others argued that a
new system must ensure a fair representation of minorities.
(Ref A) The GOK insisted that it would vote only for either
of its two proposed bills and would only do so if there were
no changes.

3. (SBU) A vote to return the proposals back to the Interior
and Defense Affairs Committee was called, held, and failed.
Further bickering led the Speaker to adjourn the session for
a half hour to restore order. After he reconvened the
session and called again for a vote, several MPs renewed the
shouting at which time Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad,
who was in attendance, proposed adjourning the session for
one week, to which the Speaker consented.

(U) The Three Proposals


4. (SBU) There are three separate 10-constituency proposals
being considered by the National Assembly. The first to be
discussed, according to the Assembly's agenda, is the
proposal by a committee of five ministers led by Justice
Minister Ahmed Baqer. This proposal permits voters to vote
for only half of the Assembly seats in each
constituency*either 4 or 6 seats*and has a very unequal
distribution of population per district*e.g. in one
constituency there are 6 parliamentary seats and only 8,000
voters, while another has only 4 seats with over 15,000
eligible voters.

5. (SBU) The second GOK proposal, attributed to Shaykh Sabah
Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, Chairman of the National Security Bureau,
and Energy Minister Shaykh Ahmed Al-Fahd Al-Sabah offers
voters the opportunity to cast votes for only 2 of 5 seats in
each of the 10 constituencies. The number of eligible voters
in each constituency ranges from 8,000-17,000 and there have
been accusations that the geographical distribution of the
constituencies, in this plan, is designed to unseat key
opposition MPs.

6. (SBU) The third plan is a modification of the GOK,s first
proposal by parliament's Interior and Defense Affairs
Committee. It offers a far more balanced distribution of
voters vis--vis seats and allows voters to cast a vote for
all available seats in their constituency*which range from 2
to 8 depending on population.

(U) The Dispute within the Dispute


7. (SBU) While there are several differences at issue within
each plan that have led to lengthy arguments, the order in
which the three proposed bills are to be discussed in
parliament is even at issue. In fact, this has become
something of a sticking point. The Interior and Defense
Affairs committee had arranged to first review and vote on
the 5-member ministerial committee proposal. The GOK wants
to review first its proposal submitted by the National
Security Bureau and then its proposal by the 5-member
ministerial committee. Some of the bickering in last
Saturday's session resulted from the dispute over this
administrative sequence. Some MPs are accusing Mohammed
Dhaifallah Sharar, who pushed for the change in the docket on
behalf of the GOK, of trying to violate the National
Assembly's code of procedures.

8. (C) One liberal pundit opined that the GOK wants its
"National Security" proposal to be addressed first because it
represents the least change from the current situation*which
he argued is in the interests of the Government. He
envisaged the following scenario: if the GOK,s preferred
proposal is raised first, the GOK will convince those MPs who
are against any change in the constituencies to choose it
over the other two. Once this proposal is presented a second
time, to become law, all those MPs who originally opposed any
change will withdraw their support, thus ensuring that
nothing is passed.

(U) Still Other Disputes


9. (SBU) In yet another dispute, Sharar, a lawyer, and MP
AbdulWahed Al-Awadhi, a vocal opponent of reducing the
constituencies, raised "suspicions" about the
constitutionality of either GOK bill, because they would
limit each voter's ability to vote for all seats in their
constituency. Article 80 of the Constitution says MPs are
elected by universal suffrage; Article 81 says constituencies
are determined by law.

10. (SBU) Speaker Al-Khorafi is being accused of acting for
the GOK because he agreed to adjourn the session until next
Saturday at Shaykh Sabah,s request. Some MPs are accusing
him of making the Assembly a "ministerial committee" arguing
that what he did benefited the GOK position and violated the
Assembly's charter, which allows the Speaker to adjourn the
session for a half hour only, not for one week. Al-Khorafi
defended his actions, saying that it was not possible to
bring order back to the unruly chamber.

10. (C) COMMENT: While a small majority of MPs appear to
agree on reducing the number of constituencies, it is quite
clear that consensus is lacking on the method to achieve this
reduction. Add to these differences those who are advocating
for the status quo and a Government which has only muddied
the waters by issuing two different reduction proposals--then
suggesting both might be unconstitutional--and there appears
to be a recipe for failure, which only a clear stand by the
GOK is likely to fix in the short term--and that is precisely
what is lacking.