KUWAIT CITY (AP) – Several prominent Kuwaiti opposition figures have returned home after a decade of exile after obtaining amnesty from the ruling Emir, a long-awaited move celebrated on Tuesday that aims to end the political paralysis that made a dent in public opinion finances.
Faisal al-Muslim was the last to be greeted Tuesday morning with cries of joy from relatives and supporters who had gathered at the open-air diwaniya, Kuwait’s all-male customary gathering. Participants dressed in traditional white robes and checkered headdresses gathered around al-Muslim, jostling to shake his hand.
Al-Muslim is among several opposition Islamist lawmakers who have been sentenced to prison terms for storming the Kuwaiti parliament amid the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings as the government attempted to quell dissent . Like many, he fled and lived in exile in Turkey as the country’s remaining opposition urged the emir to grant a royal pardon and pave the way for their return.
The emir issued the amnesty decree earlier this month as tensions escalated between Kuwait’s fully elected parliament and the emir-appointed government, with angry lawmakers using their limited powers to block out government economic reforms.
The royal edict pardoned and softened the sentences of nearly three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents. Well-known former opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak returned home last week with great fanfare.
The political stalemate has spawned a deepening financial crisis in the oil-rich Sheikh as Kuwait’s general reserve fund dries up. Parliament, meanwhile, refuses to let the government raise the public debt ceiling and raise the billions of dollars it badly needs.
As oil prices fell during the coronavirus pandemic, the government continued to pay lavish public sector wages without addressing the growing deficit, prompting rating agencies to downgrade Kuwait for the first time. times in its history.
After al-Muslim returned, the Kuwaitis celebrated with tea and a ceremonial sword dance.
“All the houses in Kuwait are very happy with the return of al-Muslim and those who were with him,” said Dokhi al-Hasban, one of the participants. “The merciful mother … embraces her sons regardless of their mind, concept and ideology.”
Many parliamentarians, although deeply disappointed by the political quarrels, say they are energized by the return of key opposition figures.
“The situation does not encourage us to be in the National Assembly, but maybe we could have another political role … as a party or an organization,” said former conservative lawmaker Waleed al-Tabatabaie. “We should benefit young people from our experience. “
Kuwait stands out in the sheikhs region of the Persian Gulf for its loud parliament and its history of lawmakers publicly criticizing official corruption.
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