KUWAIT — Kuwait's crown prince, during a tearful speech at Tuesday's opening of parliament, urged the legislative and executive branches to put an end to prolonged feuds and "petty matters" that have wasted time and money.
Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah assumed most of the ruling emir's duties late last year and has largely focused on the domestic political bickering that has long plagued the wealthy Gulf Arab state, hampering investment and key reforms.
The standoff between the government and elected parliament has blocked structural and fiscal reforms, including a debt law allowing Kuwait to tap global markets, and delayed approval of the state budget for the fiscal year starting April 2022.
"We hope for an end of the time of tension and escalation in the relationship between members of the legislative and executive authorities ... There has been enough waste of painstaking efforts, precious time and squandered money," Sheikh Meshal said in the address, visibly crying near the conclusion of his speech.
Kuwait, an OPEC oil producer, bans political parties but has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies. Kuwait's political stability has traditionally depended on cooperation between the two branches.
Opposition figures made big gains in September legislative polls after Sheikh Meshal dissolved parliament in a bid to end the stalemate. Before that, he appointed Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf al-Sabah as prime minister in response to stepped-up pressure from opposition lawmakers to identify a new premier and parliament speaker.
Sheikh Meshal pledged Tuesday that the government would not interfere in the selection of the parliament speaker or parliamentary committees.
Later, parliament selected Ahmed al-Saadoun as speaker, a position he previously held from 1985-1999. His predecessor, Marzouq al-Ghanim, had been criticised as pro-government.
Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad told parliament his government would safeguard public funds and take a tough stand on corruption, a key issue for many citizens, along with jobs.
Kuwaitis account for less than a third of the 4.6 million population and enjoy a lavish cradle-to-grave welfare system, reforms to which have been resisted by successive parliaments.
Reporting contributed by Ahmed Hagagy; additional reporting by Alaa Swilam in Cairo.