KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s parliament approved the 2021-22 state budget in a tense session that managed to temporarily break a deadlock with the government that has blocked reforms in the Gulf state.
But chaos broke out after the vote, supported by 32 out of 63 lawmakers in attendance including 50 elected members and government ministers. Parliamentary guards entered the hall to restore order as opposition and pro-government MPS quarrelled.
The session had gone ahead despite opposition lawmakers once again occupying seats reserved for ministers, a tactic they have used in recent weeks to try to highlight their demand to question the prime minister.
Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim called for a special session to discuss the budget at a time when the OPEC nation is trying boost state finances and support an economy that shrank 9.9 percent in 2020 due to low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget, proposed by the government in January, had projected 23.05 billion dinars ($76.65 billion) in expenditure for the fiscal year that started on April 1, and a deficit of 12.1 billion dinars.
“We have the right to request a special session because all regular sessions have been disrupted,” Ghanim said.
Ministers stood at an entrance to the hall after MPs took their seats and some lawmakers had rapped on tables to try to disrupt the discussions.
Frequent rows between the government and assembly have over decades led to successive cabinet reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hampering investment and reform.
Lawmakers want to question Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah over the constitutionality of a motion passed in March delaying any questioning of the premier until the end of 2022 along with other issues such as corruption.
Although the emir has final say over state matters, Kuwait is the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, which can block laws and question ministers.