Kuwait opposition to stage rally over graft scandal

AFP , Tuesday 20 Sep 2011

Kuwaiti opposition groups calls for a public rally to press for the government's resignation amidst allegations of money-for-political favours corruption

Kuwaiti opposition groups called a rally for Wednesday to press for the government's resignation over an alleged corruption scandal involving a number of MPs and possibly former ministers.

The rally, called by Islamist, liberal and nationalist groups who altogether have more than 20 MPs in the 50-seat parliament, will kickstart a campaign to expose those who paid and received the money and for what purposes.

Speaking at a gathering Monday night, prominent opposition lawmaker Ahmad Al-Saadun called on Kuwaitis to attend the rally to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahamd Al-Sabah.

"We should not let the prime minister and the government continue for another day, otherwise the country risks collapse," said Saadun, who estimated that the suspect MPs have received around $350 million.

Liberal MP Saleh Al-Mulla told the gathering the amount is "only the tip of the iceberg," of corruption in Kuwait, adding the "money was paid for political favours."

Kuwait's public prosecution last week launched an investigation into the bank accounts of at least nine MPs who have allegedly received huge deposits during the past few months.

Hundreds of youth activists demonstrated on Friday, demanding fundamental reform, including a constitutional monarch and action against corruption.

Corruption has been on the rise in this oil-rich Gulf state which amassed more than $200 billion of budget surpluses over the past 12 fiscal years, thanks to high crude price.

Between 2003 and 2009, the emirate slipped 31 places to 66th position on the Berlin-based Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index among 178 nations.

In 2010, however, it improved 12 places to the 54th position but still came last among the six-nation energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), behind Saudi Arabia.

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