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Kuwait swears in new cabinet amid deepening political crisis

Kuwait’s new cabinet has been sworn in, weeks after ministers tendered resignations en masse amid a deepening deadlock with the parliament.

The official ceremony took place on Wednesday after Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah swapped out at least four ministers whose selection had prompted anger among some lawmakers.

In his speech at the ceremony, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, urged unity at the time of crisis.

“You have tremendous responsibilities, particularly at this important stage, and I’m sure that you … can work collectively in the spirit of a single team,” the emir told the ministers.

The government said in mid-January that it had submitted its resignation “in light of developments in the relationship between the National Assembly and the government.”

Sheikh Nawaf suspended the parliament last month until mid-March amid growing tensions over cabinet appointments. The lawmakers moved to question the premier over the cabinet makeup.

The worsening rift between the emir-appointed government and elected parliament presents the first significant challenge to Sheikh Nawaf, who ascended the throne late last year.

The infighting diminished public confidence and hastened the worst debt crisis since the 1990 Iraqi invasion.

As Kuwait’s general reserve fund runs out of cash, lawmakers, skeptical of deep-rooted corruption, have prevented the government from borrowing in response to the coronavirus pandemic and low crude prices.

Sabah was first appointed as prime minister on November 19, 2019, after the resignation of his predecessor Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah. He was reappointed as premier on December 8, 2020, following general elections that saw the opposition win almost half of the parliament’s seats.

Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in as the new emir on September 30, 2020 after Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah passed away at the age of 91.

Members of the al-Sabah ruling family retain full control over key government and executive posts. They have been in power for the past 250 years.

Under the Kuwaiti constitution, the emir has the final say in state matters and can dissolve the parliament at the recommendation of the government.

The prime minister traditionally helps navigate the often tense relationship between the government and the parliament.

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