• PERSIAN GULF \ Feb 28, 2001
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    New Kuwaiti cabinet unlikely to grant women the right to vote
New Kuwaiti cabinet unlikely to grant women the right to vote KUWAIT - The choice of legislators in Kuwait's new cabinet indicates that the government does not want to pursue the hotly debated issue of votes for women, the head of political science at Kuwait University said Saturday. The cabinet held its first meeting Saturday amid several negative views on its chances of tackling this oil-rich state's problems. When he appointed the cabinet on Wednesday, the crown prince and prime minister, Sheik Saad Al Abdullah Al Sabah, followed the tradition of keeping the key portfolios of foreign affairs, defense and interior in the hands of the ruling Al Sabah family. But he raised from one to four the number of legislators in the 16-man cabinet. The other members of the government are private individuals. The choice of the lawmakers, however, indicated that the government does not want the women's rights' law to pass, said Ahmed al-Baghdadi, a professor in the Political Science Department at Kuwait University. The lawmakers - Ahmed Baqer, Salah Khorshid, Talal al-Ayyar and Fahd al-Meih - are all Muslim conservatives who oppose the recent drive to give women the right to vote and hold elected positions. It is unlikely they will use their votes in the National Assembly in favor of the women's political rights bill when it next comes up for a vote. Previously the parliament has voted down a decree conferring such rights and a bill along the same lines. Women's activists pursued the issue in the courts and lost several cases on technicalities. The previous cabinet resigned on January 28, saying it could not function because of unidentified obstacles. The move came a day after a lawmaker threatened to question the minister of justice about cases of corruption and murder that had not been prosecuted. Such parliamentary grillings have previously resulted in the dissolution of parliament - last time in 1999. A weekly report on Kuwait's economy, out Saturday, said that the cabinet's economic team lacked common interests, language and political affiliations. Written by the independent economist Jassem al-Saadoun, the report said it was doubtful that the ministers of finance, commerce and industry, planning and oil could work together to restructure an economy that is overly dependent on oil and government spending. Al-Saadoun added that the cabinet was a characterless body composed of appointees designed to please its two architects: the prime minister, and the deputy prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah. Sheik Sabah had an unprecedented role in choosing this cabinet because of the failing health of the prime minister, who is suffering from a colon disease, Al-Saadoun said. However, the newspaper Al-Siyassah expressed optimism about the cabinet yesterday. "This cabinet can work," wrote editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Jarallah. "Its lawmaker ministers will guarantee it smooth sailing in the legislature," he said. "Let's give it a chance.