Opposition in Kuwait to stage rally over corruption allegations

Islamist, liberal and nationalist groups claim some Kuwaiti MPs have received around US$350m in corrupt payments, and are demanding the government¿s resignation.

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KUWAIT CITY // Kuwaiti opposition groups called a rally for today 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, which altogether have more than 20 MPs in the 50-seat parliament, will kickstart a campaign to expose those who allegedly paid and received the money and for what purposes.

The prominent opposition politician Ahmad Al Saadun, speaking at a gathering on Monday night, called on Kuwaitis to attend the rally to press for the resignation of the 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 Mr Saadun, who estimated that the suspect MPs have received around US$350 million (Dh1.28 billion).

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 (Dh734.6) 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.