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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06KUWAIT4206 2006-10-23 06:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

FREEDOM AGENDA: OPPOSITION GROUPS IN PARLIAMENT

Tags:   PGOV KDEM KU FREEDOM AGENDA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 
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VZCZCXRO6912
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHKU #4206/01 2960622
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 230622Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7288
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 004206 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, LONDON FOR TSOU, PARIS FOR WALLER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KU FREEDOM AGENDA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
SUBJECT: FREEDOM AGENDA: OPPOSITION GROUPS IN PARLIAMENT
FORM 34-MEMBER REFORM BLOC

REF: A. KUWAIT 3826

B. KUWAIT 3432

Classified By: CDA Matt Tueller for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C/NF) Summary: The three opposition groups in Parliament
-- the Islamic Bloc (17 MPs), the Popular Action Bloc (9
MPs), and the National Action Bloc (8 MPs) -- announced the
formation of a new, 34-member Reform Bloc, culminating weeks
of meetings between the groups. They also agreed on a common
agenda, focusing primarily on fighting corruption, and a
timetable for discussing the issues in Parliament. The
Government met with the three blocs separately to discuss
their priorities and outline its own four-year strategy.
Members of the Islamic Bloc told Poloff they were optimistic
about the formation of and cooperation between the blocs,
which they saw as "a positive development for democracy in
Kuwait." Members of the more liberal National Action Bloc
were more pessimistic, noting that the three blocs had
different outlooks and priorities. They predicted the groups
would clash after passing only one or two items on the
agenda.



2. (C/NF) Comment: While parliamentary blocs are not new,
the blocs in this Parliament have exhibited an unprecedented
level of cohesion and coordination. As one MP suggested,
this is likely driven in part by recent electoral reforms,
which, by more than doubling the number of voters in each
district, are forcing parliamentarians to define themselves
as part of a bloc in order to cater to a much larger
electorate. The Government has also adopted a different
approach, encouraging the blocs' formation and working with
them rather than seeking to undermine them, as many accuse
former Ministers Shaykh Ahmed Al-Fahd and Mohammed Sharar of
doing. Although the creation of an umbrella Reform Bloc is a
positive development, there are still significant differences
between the three blocs at its core, which seem to agree on
little else besides fighting corruption. It remains to be
seen whether these ideologically-opposed groups will be able
to cooperate on a joint agenda in the next parliamentary
session, which begins October 30. End summary and comment.

Opposition Groups Form Reform Bloc


--------------------------





3. (C/NF) After weeks of meetings, Parliament's three
opposition blocs (ref A) announced October 10 the formation
of a new Reform Bloc, comprising 34 out of Parliament's 65
members. (Note: Members of the 16-member Cabinet serve ex
officio as MPs. End note.) While ideologically opposed on
many social and religious issues, the Islamic Bloc (17 MPs),
the Popular Action Bloc (9 MPs), and the National Action Bloc
(8 MPs) nonetheless agreed to cooperate to fight corruption
and push for several specific political and economic reforms.
They also agreed on a timetable for raising the issues in
Parliament (see para 8). Several Cabinet Ministers met
separately on October 12 and 13 with the three blocs to
discuss their priorities and to lay out the Government's own
four-year development strategy (ref B). Commenting on the
meetings, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Dr. Ismail
Al-Shatti said the Government and Parliament agreed on the
need to fight corruption, increase transparency, and
implement a clear development strategy. "Everyone wants to
achieve (these) important goals. All MPs we met are asking
for that," he said. Public reaction to the formation of the
Reform Bloc and the Government's meetings with the three
blocs' meetings has been generally positive.

Islamist MPs Upbeat about Reform Bloc


--------------------------





4. (C/NF) Dr. Nasser Al-Sane, a member of the Islamic Bloc,
downplayed differences between the three blocs during an
October 11 meeting with Poloff, saying the blocs had "very
easily" agreed on a common agenda. Issues they disagreed on,
like taxation of Kuwaiti agents of foreign companies, which
liberals opposed and Islamists supported, were simply left
off the agenda. Al-Sane, who is also a member of the Islamic
Constitutional Movement (ICM), the political arm of the
Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, said members of the liberal
National Action Bloc were "not happy" about Islamists'
insistence on the zakat law being included on the agenda, but
had nonetheless agreed to support it to preserve a united
front. He noted that the Government had insisted on meeting
the blocs separately rather than as a group. Al-Sane said
the typically contentious elections to Parliament's standing
and ad hoc committees, which will take place when the
Assembly reconvenes October 30 and which the blocs are trying
to coordinate on, would indicate the level of cooperation

KUWAIT 00004206 002 OF 003


between the blocs and their ability to cooperate on a joint
agenda. He suggested the Islamic Bloc and the Popular Action
Bloc were more closely aligned than the National Action Bloc,
but noted that the formation of relatively cohesive
parliamentary blocs and the level of coordination between
them was unprecedented in Kuwait's political history.



5. (C/NF) During an October 17 meeting, another member of
the Islamic Bloc, Adel Al-Sarawi, attributed the formation of
and unprecedented cooperation between the blocs to
Parliament's passage of legislation reducing the number of
electoral constituencies from 25 to 5 in July. He explained
that MPs were trying to redefine themselves to appeal to a
significantly larger constituency and noted that several
former "service deputies" -- MPs whose political support
derived from obtaining favors for their constituents -- had
joined one of the three opposition blocs in the new
Parliament. "You can no longer achieve anything in
Parliament by working on your own," he argued. "This is a
positive development for democracy in Kuwait." Al-Sarawi
said the "number one" priority of the Reform Bloc was
fighting corruption and agreed with Al-Sane that it had been
relatively easy for the blocs to agree on a common agenda in
part because their constituents expected it.

Liberals a Little More Skeptical


--------------------------





6. (C/NF) MP Faisal Al-Shaye, a member of the National
Action Bloc and a prominent liberal, was less optimistic,
predicting the blocs would "clash" after passing only one or
two items on their agenda. "We have different outlooks and
different priorities," he said, noting that the National
Action Bloc's top priority was privatization, which the
Islamic Bloc was split over and the Popular Action Bloc
completely opposed. The top priority of the Islamic Bloc, on
the hand, was the zakat law, which Al-Shaye said "we don't
care about at all." He said the list of the Reform Bloc's
priorities was a product of the three blocs' earlier meetings
and included many MPs' or blocs' pet projects, which the rest
of the Reform Bloc did not fully support. Although he was
pessimistic about cooperation on issues beyond fighting
corruption, he acknowledged that cooperation between the
blocs was ultimately a positive development. As a brief
aside, he said that although Al-Sarawi was a member of the
Islamic Bloc, he was closer to the National Action Bloc on
many issues, a comment that highlights the often ambiguous
leanings of Kuwaiti parliamentarians.



7. (C/NF) The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee,
Mohammed Jassem Al-Sager, echoed Al-Shaye's sentiments in an
October 15 meeting with PolChief. Al-Sager, who is also a
member of the National Action Bloc, said each bloc had its
own priorities and predicted they would ultimately fail to
cooperate on a common agenda. He noted that the National
Action Bloc opposed writing off citizens' loans and the zakat
law, the top priorities of the Popular Action Bloc and the
Islamic Bloc, respectively. He said that even within the
National Action Bloc not everyone had the same priorities.
"Whatever the Government brings, whether we like it or not,
we have to deal with as a priority," he concluded.

Priorities of the Reform Bloc


--------------------------





8. (C/NF) Begin text of the priorities of the Reform Bloc in
order of importance (Note: Dates in parentheses are the
session(s) the bloc intends to discuss the issue in
Parliament. End note.):

1) Laws safeguarding state properties (December 4-5, 2006)
2) Laws on border warehouses and crossings (November 20-21,
2006)
3) Law establishing a third telecommunications company
(December 18-19, 2006)
4) Anti-monopolization law (December 18-19, 2006)
5) Zakat Law (November 6-7, 2006)
6) Jaber (the late Amir) Fund (February 19-20, 2007)
7) Contracts exceeding 100,000 KD ($345,000) (February
19-20, 2007)
8) Internal Rules and Procedures (January 22-23, 2007)
9) Elections Law (January 22-23, 2007)
10) Sports (January 8, 2007)
11) Social rights for women and children (January 8, 2007)
12) Stipends for students (January 8, 2007)
13) Jaber Islamic Bank (March 5-6, 2007)
14) Health Company (March 5-6, 2007)
15) Disclosure of financial assets (March 19-20, 2007)
16) Handicapped retirement (March 19-20, 2007)

KUWAIT 00004206 003 OF 003


17) Increasing retirees' pension payments (March 19-20, 2007)
18) Education as a tough profession (February 5-6, 2007)
19) Elderly citizens (February 5-6, 2007)
20) Maintaining the oil wealth and using it well (April 2-3,
2007)
21) Establishing an underground subway company (April 26-27)

End text.

********************************************* *
For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/kuwait/?cable s

Visit Kuwait's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/kuwait/
********************************************* *
Tueller