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FILE - This Dec. 16, 2012 file photo shows a general view of Kuwait's National Assembly. Kuwait, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, is facing a debt crisis. The pandemic has sent the price of oil crashing to all-time lows and pushed Kuwait toward a reckoning with its longtime largesse for its citizens just as a parliamentary election looms in December 2020. (AP Photo/Gustavo Ferrari, File)

Firing at the Wrong Target: A Losing Game for Kuwait’s Opposition

The resignation of the Kuwaiti cabinet and the election of the new parliament has produced much new political discourse in the country. Kuwait is no stranger to parliamentary debate. In recent years, we have seen numerous instances of the opposition grilling members of the cabinet for their policies (or, sometimes, lack thereof). However, Parliament has in recent months also played host to sensational accusations based on innuendo rather than fact. Unfortunately, these allegations have come from certain members of the opposition, whose credibility as a movement will be damaged when the allegations are proven to be false.

How Battles are Won in Kuwait

Throughout Kuwait’s long, rich history, it has experienced many intense conflicts, both military and political in nature. The winners and losers of these conflicts were, without a doubt, defined by many different factors. Some of these factors were concrete – the number of fighters on each side, the quality of their weapons and their training – but, in some cases, popular superstition determined those outcomes. Sometimes, the people would support factions and leaders who seemed to lack any intrinsic military advantage, but were nonetheless able to win repeatedly.

Kuwait’s history offers many parallels to the situation of the current Kuwaiti cabinet, a complicated situation that has recently played host to accusations of racism and fraud. For instance, some members were accused of forging their university degrees, while others were accused of promoting racist proposals, trying to discredit their colleagues and prevent them from being nominated for Cabinet positions. Such mudslinging has, unfortunately, become the norm in Kuwait. The battles waged for Cabinet positions in Kuwait, though different in nature, are just as fierce as any conflict in Arabia’s history – and Kuwait’s current politicians have seemingly decided that no method of winning is off-limits.

Why is Foreign Minister Al-Sabah Being Attacked?

Without a doubt, Kuwait as a whole has been fortunate in recent years The small nation’s foreign policy has been lauded for its successes by the other countries of the GCC. Kuwait’s late emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah, had an influential role in formulating this foreign policy and its success, through approaches that were deep-rooted in the Gulf region – adding influence to Kuwait’s foreign policy, and helping to balance it between its larger neighbors. Kuwaiti foreign policy also had several influential figures who influenced its diplomacy, including Sheikh Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem, who played a key role in modernizing it. Most recently, the current cabinet has introduced a young, ambitious, and articulate Foreign Minister, Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al Sabah, who has successfully continued the efforts to end the Gulf crisis. He might simply be fortunate, or he might be very skilled; however, one way or another, he has played a key role in ending the deepest crisis the GCC has faced to date.

Given the enormous success of the Foreign Minister on this matter, and despite other challenges facing the country, it was surprising to see attacks against him by Kuwaiti Member of Parliament Shuaib Al-Muwaizri. It is unusual, to say the least, to see MPs who are considered part of the opposition – nominally on the side of the people, rather than the government – attacking a minister who by all accounts has been successful, and, moreover, has an excellent approval rating among the public. Furthermore, MP Al-Muwaizri did not make any substantive argument for any legal reason that the Foreign Minister should be stripped of his position. This has led to public resentment, and many doubt the motivations for the MP’s criticism of the FM. 

The Opposition Must Stay on Topic

Generally, it has never been my mission to defend the government or its members from the opposition; overall, I am the last person to do so. What I am concerned with, however, is not a defense of the Foreign Minister, but a defense of the opposition. The fact that Al-Muwaizri (or any other opposition figure) is distracting public opinion with unnecessary criticism of the FM, who has done efficient work, and not focusing on the more important shortcomings of other Cabinet members’ performance, will discredit the opposition among society. This is something the opposition must be aware of. Criticism of the Cabinet is entirely valid and needed, but it has to be constructive, and it should be conducted through accurate discussion and evidence of real problems, not through a personal vendetta to prevent a minister from being selected for his or her position in the formation of a new government.

The opposition, to a far greater extent than the government, needs to persuade public opinion that its vision will lead to solutions for the nation’s problems. Therefore, each MP is responsible for presenting and clarifying his or her work plan to properly represent his or her constituents. If an MP does otherwise – namely, criticize a government official for personal reasons and without popular support – it will backfire on the opposition and be counterproductive to its mission.

It is very important for Kuwait to have a strong opposition inside the Parliament, as well as outside, to deliver messages from the public to the government and stop any wrongdoing by the Cabinet. At the same time, however, the opposition must discuss the issues logically and persuade society that it is correct. Therefore, although I am on the side of the opposition, it is my duty to criticize it if there is an error in its work, because we want to allow it to continue the work of the people and strengthen the government.

Dr. Abdul Hadi Nasser Al-Ajmi has held many academic and research positions since 2004. He is Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies in the College of Arts, Kuwait University, as well as the Head of History Department and the Deanship of Consulting, Training, and Development. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Gulf International Forum.

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Dr. Abdul Hadi Nasser Al-Ajmi has held many academic and research positions since 2004. He is Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies in the College of Arts, Kuwait University, as well as the Head of History Department and the Deanship of Consulting, Training, and Development. Dr. Al-Ajmi is also the Secretary-General of the Kuwaiti Historical Society and member of the Board of Trustees of Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah, and recently assumed the presidency of the Association of History and Antiquities of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Dr. Al-Ajmi’s research interests are in Islamic history, the concept of political and legal systems and their relations with societies. Dr. Al-Ajmi has published more than 30 researches, books, and other publications in English and Arabic in Kuwait, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Germany, U.K., Egypt, Greece, and other countries. Dr. Al-Ajmi holds Masters of Middle East Studies from the University of Chicago and PhD in Islamic History from Durham University.

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