KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – The emir of the Gulf state of Kuwait dissolved parliament on Wednesday for the second time in a year after a new row between MPs and the cabinet, which is dominated by members of his Sabah family.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah called a snap election within the next two months, the official KUNA news agency said, the second poll in the Western-backed oil producer since May last year and the third since June 2006.
The emir, whose country is the main rear base for US-led operations in neighbouring Iraq, said he took the decision to “safeguard the security of the nation and its stability.”
He strongly criticised what he called “regrettable practices by MPs that have distorted the image of Kuwaiti freedom and democracy.”
The emir expressed particular anger at repeated demands by some MPs to summon before parliament his nephew, outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmed al-Sabah.
The demands had prompted the cabinet to tender its resignation in support of the premier.
He accused the 50-member chamber of abusing its constitutional powers and warned he would not “hesitate to take any step to safeguard the country’s security.”
The new parliamentary polls will be held in mid-May, a government source told AFP.
MPs had expressed concern that the emir would suspend parliament without a snap election and rule by decree for the next two years.
Kuwait has had a parliament since 1962, longer than any of the other five Gulf Arab states. But it does not enjoy powers equivalent to those in Western parliamentary democracies and cannot bring down a cabinet, although it can hold censure votes against individual ministers.
Kuwaiti parliaments have been suspended twice in the past — in 1976 for five years and then in 1986 for six years.
But since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war, in which the emirate was liberated from Iraqi occupation by a US-led coalition, dissolutions of parliament have always been followed by snap elections.
OPEC’s fourth largest producer, Kuwait pumps around 2.2 million barrels per day. It has a citizen population of less than 1.1 million, and 2.35 million foreign residents.
The early parliamentary election is expected to bring little change to the emirate’s governance.
Before the emir issued his decree, the ruling Sabah family met and recommended the appointment of the emir’s half-brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to replace his nephew as premier.
The Gulf state’s until recently massive oil income has been sharply reduced by the global economic slowdown and the resulting big falls in world prices.
The key energy sector provides more than 90 percent of state revenues.
Recently the emirate scrapped a 7.5-billion-dollar deal with US giant Dow Chemical to set up a joint petrochemical venture.
The prime minister said on Sunday the government would also halt a 15-billion-dollar project to build a new 630,000 barrel per day refinery which had been strongly opposed by MPs.
A government-sponsored multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus bill to aid ailing investment companies and banks has been held up in parliament for six weeks amid accusations by MPs that it is a waste of public funds.
The emir is now expected to pass the law by decree.