Sheikh Nawaf, who is seen upholding Kuwait’s current oil, investment and foreign policies, takes the helm as the country faces a liquidity crisis caused by low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, which the National Guard has played a visible role in combating.
Diplomats and analysts say the immediate focus will be on domestic issues with perceived corruption, living standards and the economy the top priorities for most Kuwaitis in a country with a cradle-to-grave welfare system and where expatriates constitute a big part of the workforce.
Deutsche Bank has estimated that Kuwait’s nearly US$140 billion economy could shrink by 7.8 percent this year in what would be one of the worst economic crunches among Gulf oil exporters.
Key will be cooperation between cabinet and the outspoken assembly, the Gulf region’s oldest legislature that wields power to block bills and question ministers. Clashes have led to successive government reshuffles or dissolution of parliament.
The body was often in the past dominated by opposition groups until Sheikh Sabah in 2012 broke their hold by using executive powers to amend the voting system, sparking some of the largest protests in the country’s history.
Kuwaiti opposition figures have proposed electoral reforms and a pardon for dissidents in recent meetings with Sheikh Nawaf before he assumed power.
“Reformers and independents are looking for reconciliation (with the government), enhancing freedom of speech, economic and political reforms, combating corruption, demographics,” Alnajjar said.
“It will be difficult to amend the electoral law with elections coming up … but anything is possible.”
Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Giles Elgood
FILE – In this Wednesday, March 26, 2014 file photo, Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheik Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah attends the closing session of the 25th Arab Summit in Bayan Palace in Kuwait City. Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah became the oil-rich nation’s new ruling emir Tuesday, September 29, 2020, state media reported, reaching the highest post in the country after decades in its security services. (AP Photo/Nasser Waggi, File)