Kuwait’s exiled opposition returns home after royal pardon

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Several prominent Kuwaiti opposition figures have returned home from a decade of self-imposed exile after receiving an apology from the ruling emir, a long-awaited move aimed at ending political paralysis, celebrated Tuesday. Which has burned a hole in public finances.

Faisal al-Muslim was the latest to be greeted early Tuesday by screams of joy from relatives and supporters who gathered at the open-air Diwaniya, the all-male customary Kuwaiti gathering. Attendees in traditional white robes and checkered headdresses crowded around the al-Muslim, clamoring to shake hands.

Al-Muslim is among several opposition Islamist lawmakers who were sentenced to prison for attacking the Kuwaiti parliament in the midst of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising as the government took steps to quell dissent. Like many, he fled and was living in exile in Turkey as the country’s remaining opposition pressured the emir to issue a royal pardon and pave the way for his return.

The emir issued an amnesty decree earlier this month as tensions rose between Kuwait’s fully elected parliament and the emir-appointed government, with angry lawmakers using their limited powers to block the government’s economic reforms Was.

The royal order pardoned and softened the sentences of about three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents. Well-known former leader of the opposition Musallam al-Barak returned home with great fanfare last week.

The political deadlock has sparked a worsening financial crisis in the wealthy, oil-rich Sheikhdom, with Kuwait’s general reserve fund drying up. Meanwhile, parliament forbade the government from raising the public debt limit and flaunting badly needed billions of dollars.

As oil prices fell during the coronavirus pandemic, the government continued to pay public sector salaries without addressing the widening deficit, prompting rating agencies to downgrade Kuwait for the first time in its history.

After returning to al-Muslim, Kuwaitis celebrated with tea and a ceremonial sword dance.

Dokhi al-Hasban, one of the attendees, said, “All households in Kuwait are very happy with the return of al-Muslim and those who are with him.” “The kind mother … embraces her sons regardless of their mind, their beliefs, and their ideology.”

Many MPs, though deeply dismayed by the political wrangling, say they are excited by the return of prominent opposition figures.

Former Conservative MP Waleed al-Tabatabai said, “The situation does not encourage us to remain in the National Assembly, but perhaps we can have a more political role … such as as a party or organisation.” “We must benefit the youth from our experience.”

Kuwait has stood out for publicly criticizing official corruption for its full parliament and history of parliamentarians in the region of sheikhs of the Persian Gulf.

The Associated Press

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