KUWAIT, (Reuters) – Kuwaiti lawmakers boycotted a parliament session on Tuesday to foil another attempt to swear in a new cabinet – a move that makes the assembly’s dissolution likely and throws the U.S. ally into more turmoil.
It was the second such boycott in a week, and the decision rattled the Kuwaiti stock market.
The dispute centres on a ruling by Kuwait’s constitutional court in June that effectively dissolved a parliament dominated by opposition Islamists and reinstated its more government-friendly predecessor, elected in 2009.
Only four members of the 50-seat assembly and five ministers from the 15-member new cabinet turned up for the parliament session.
“We could not convene the session due to the lack of a quorum and I will not call for another session,” National Assembly speaker Jassim al-Kharafi said. “I will take the matter to his highness the emir.”
Analysts expect Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to dissolve parliament in order to allow a new election, widely expected to be held after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in the second half of August. The last elections were in February.
The stock market index fell 0.4 percent to 5,708 points on Tuesday, nearing the six-and-a-half-month low it hit on July 31, when the parliament first failed to swear in a new cabinet.
State news agency KUNA last week quoted some lawmakers as saying that the government had encouraged some of them to skip the session so that the parliament can be dissolved.
The constitutional court’s decision to reinstate the old parliament angered Kuwaiti opposition politicians, who said the previous assembly had been tarnished by corruption allegations.
Political turmoil is not new to Kuwait, which has seen eight governments come and go in just six years. The infighting has held up legislation and investment, turning the oil-producing country into a laggard.
Kuwait, a U.S. ally and one of the world’s richest countries per capita, is home to an outspoken parliament with legislative powers but the ruling al-Sabah family maintains a firm grip on state affairs.
Main cabinet posts are held by ruling family members and the 83-year-old emir has the final say in politics.
Kuwait has not experienced the kind of mass popular uprisings that have swept the Arab region since last year, but tensions have grown between the cabinet and opposition lawmakers pushing for a say in government.