KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – Kuwait was plunged into a new crisis on Tuesday after the cabinet in the oil-rich Gulf state resigned over a standoff with parliament, in a move which could lead to early elections.
“The Kuwaiti cabinet submitted its resignation to the emir just a while ago,” MP Nasser al-Sane told reporters.
Kuwaiti ministers — led by Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmad al-Sabah — had walked out of parliament earlier on Tuesday as the house was due to set a date to question the premier.
The move raises the prospect of parliament being dissolved for the third time in as many years.
Following its walkout from parliament, the government went into an emergency meeting, parliamentary sources said.
Under Kuwaiti law, if Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah accepts the resignation — on which there was no immediate official word — he can either form a new cabinet or dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.
Several MPs said the emir was due to issue a decree later on Tuesday to dissolve parliament, with some expecting both the constitution and parliament to be suspended, which means no fresh election will be called.
Three Islamist MPs had last week called for the premier to be grilled, accusing Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, of allowing a prominent Iranian Shiite cleric to enter Kuwait despite a legal ban.
They have also accused him of failing to “perform his constitutional duties… and that it was time that Kuwait had a premier capable of running the state and achieving the wishes of the people.”
And they have alleged that corruption and squandering of public funds had rapidly increased under the leadership of Sheikh Nasser, who is a senior member of the ruling family.
Despite the latest political crisis, the Kuwait stock market, which has been battered over falling oil prices and the global financial crisis, was up 0.55 percent on Tuesday.
The OPEC member state is no stranger to such crises, with many MPs blaming disputes in the ruling Al-Sabah family.
Kuwait’s constitution, the first adopted by an Arab state in the Gulf, was suspended in 1976 for five years and in 1986 for six years when parliament was also dissolved.
In 2006, a power struggle among the Al-Sabahs resulted in an unprecedented vote by the elected parliament to remove the then emir, Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, on health grounds.
Parliament was also dissolved in March 2007 over political disputes between MPs and the government, and fresh elections were held.
The Al-Sabah family has run the affairs of Kuwait since it came into existence some 250 years ago, and Kuwaitis have seldom questioned their continuing rule.
The emir, crown prince and the prime minister are all from the family, which also controls the key ministerial porfolios of defence, interior, information and foreign affairs.