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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09KUWAIT161 2009-02-24 12:07:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

OPPOSITION MPS SUSTAIN CALLS TO "GRILL" PRIME

Tags:   PGOV PREL PINR KU 
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VZCZCXRO0836
PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHKU #0161/01 0551207
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241207Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2881
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 000161 

SIPDIS

NEA/ARP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KU
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION MPS SUSTAIN CALLS TO "GRILL" PRIME
MINISTER

REF: A. 2008 KUWAIT 1259

B. KUWAIT 111

C. 2008 KUWAIT 1166

D. 2008 KUWAI 1187

Classified By: Political Counselor Pete O'Donohue for reasons 1.4 b and
d

Summary
-------



1. (C) Though the Kuwaiti Parliament is on recess for the
February 24-25 national and liberation holidays, this respite
only delays until its March 3 reconvening the targeting of PM
Shaykh Nasser for opposition grilling. The beleaguered PM,
who has been out of the country for the past two weeks, faces
grilling from multiple sides for his alleged failure to plan
for the economic crisis; mishandling of the KDOW and Fourth
Refinery deals; misappropriation of public funds;
questionable granting of citizenship, and failure to make
consumer debt forgiveness a high priority. Grilling the PM
remains in many minds a tripwire to parliamentary
dissolution, leading to speculation that the Amir may do so
as early as March, perhaps simultaneously calling for the
PM's resignation. Whatever happens, most Kuwaitis agree that
a simple shift in personalities will not resolve the inherent
flaws in their existing democratic machinery. Other rumors
suggest that if he dissolves parliament, the Amir may offer
the public some degree of relief from private debts to soften
the blow. End Summary.

ICM Stands Fast on Plans to Grill the PM


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





2. (C) The Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM - Kuwaiti
Muslim Brotherhood), viewed widely as the best organized and
most politically astute association in Kuwait, leads the
charge of those wishing to grill PM Shaykh Nasser Al-Muhammad
Al Sabah. The ICM has decried the PM's perceived weakness in
handling crucial projects like KDOW and the Fourth Refinery
(ref A) and his alleged failure to invest Kuwait's sovereign
wealth effectively. (Note: Despite the fact it has done
better than most - ref B. End note.). The ICM has
resisted appeals by the government and some MPs to drop its
grilling project and, through its firebrand MP Dr. Nasser
Al-San'e, declared that it will proceed with its decision to
grill the PM in March, a call echoed by fellow brotherhood
member, Jam'an Al-Hirbish. Al-Hirbish stated that should the
PM try to sidestep the grilling, the ICM would call for a
vote of non-cooperation (a symbolic vice substantive move)
against him.

ICM in a Rebuilding Phase


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





3. (C) By targeting Shaykh Nasser, ICM seeks to restore
public confidence in its ability to influence events, thereby
laying the groundwork for success in elections which it
anticipates could occur soon. The May 2008 National Assembly
elections, largely deemed a victory for tribal MPs (septel),
served as a rude wake-up call for the association, which
suffered surprising losses and succeeded in winning only
three seats. ICM also managed to keep one of its
representatives, Mohammed Al-Olaim, in charge of the
high-profile Ministry of Oil. However, ICM soon found itself
locked in a dispute with its traditional allies, the
Islamists, over the KDOW and Fourth Refinery projects, and
Al-Olaim, a respected technocrat, found himself the
sacrificial lamb in the GOK's efforts to appease rather than
confront parliamentary opposition to the two projects. He
was replaced by the PM in February by ruling family member
(and previously ousted Health Minister) Shaykh Abdullah
Al-Ahmed Al Sabah, himself not known for being a forceful
player.

Grilling Over Stimulus Package


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





4. (C) Liberal MPs from the Popular Action Bloc (PAB),
though not notable for their loyalty to the PM, initially
tried to forestall ICM's grilling of him, contending that the
effort distracts from more important corruption allegations
against the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation over the KDOW and
Fourth Refinery projects. (Note: Allegations of corruption
have not been aimed at Al-Olaim. End note.) However, the
PAB, on February 16, hinted that it too may enter the
grilling game over its opposition to a new
government-sponsored economic stimulus bill (ref B). Press
reports indicate that the PAB is weighing its options to

KUWAIT 00000161 002 OF 002


"question the government" if this bill -- which it deems a
waste of public funds to bail out fiscally irresponsible
investors -- passes.

Bailout for All


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





5. (C) Also targeting the PM over the stimulus package is
Islamist MP Dr. Dhaifallah Bou Ramya, one of the champions in
favor of exploiting Kuwait's public wealth to pay off private
consumer debt. He argues that if the GOK can bail out the
banks and companies who have pursued fiscally irresponsible
policies then it should also forgive the debt of average
citizens.

Al-Mulaifi's Grilling: On Simmer


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





6. (C) Per ref C, MP Ahmed Al-Mulaifi delayed for three
months his November threat to grill the PM on grounds the PM
mismanaged or misappropriated public funds and committed
irregularities in granting Kuwaiti nationality to certain
individuals who did not qualify. The Council of Ministers
responded to Al-Mulaifi's barrages on February 9 by referring
charges of misappropriation of public funds by the PM to the
Public Prosecutor and by authorizing the Higher Nationality
Committee to withdraw Kuwaiti nationality from those deemed
undeserving. Satisfied, at least for now, Al-Mulaifi has
stepped back from his grilling request.

Comment:


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





7. (C) The Amir has often asserted that attempts to grill
the PM would cross the red line requiring his intervention.
Increasingly, however, one hears rumors that his patience has
worn thin with his collegial but persistently ineffectual PM
-- who has tried and failed four times to construct and
manage a government. While many continue to believe it
unlikely that the Amir will allow the highly unpalatable
option of a public grilling (particularly given the chance
that lines of questioning might inevitably lead to him),
others suggest he may both dissolve the parliament and
'allow' the PM to submit his resignation simultaneously, thus
offering something for everyone and essentially making a
"clean break."



8. (C) While Kuwaitis and outside observers can only
speculate as to what tricks remain up the politically wily
Amir's sleeve, what seems painfully clear is that changing
the personalities alone will not solve Kuwait's democratic
woes. To draw on a metaphor explored at length in ref D,
Kuwait's democracy is a beloved but decrepit jalopy held
together by glue and baling wire. Changing a few parts here
and there will not produce a new and more efficient car; and
reshuffling the PM will not fix the problems in Kuwait's
system of governance. Even if a more forceful and attractive
successor to the present PM were in sight (and there is no
one at present who fills the bill), the fundamental flaws in
Kuwait's system would remain. The system needs more than
tinkering; it needs an overhaul. Still, like that beloved
old jalopy that keeps on chugging down the road, most
Kuwaitis continue to feel they can get some more mileage out
of their current system. As the global economic crisis and
other political and economic challenges continue to mount,
however, we can expect more and more Kuwaitis to begin
kicking tires and thinking about investing in a newer model.
End comment.



********************************************* *********
For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
visit Kuwait's Classified Website at:

http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Kuwa it
********************************************* *********
MISENHEIMER