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Middle East
Kuwait faces new elections
The emir has dissolved parliament to end a political impasse.
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2008 11:27 GMT
The emir of Kuwait has decided to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections  [EPA] 

The emir of Kuwait has dissolved the country's parliament and ordered early elections to be held to try and resolve a stand-off between the government and the deputies.
 
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah cut short a foreign visit to return to Kuwait to tackle the issue, and issued the decree for a fresh vote on Wednesday evening.
The cabinet resigned on Monday, less than a year after being sworn in, complaining that a lack of co-operation from parliament has blocked legislation.

State news agency Kuna said the new elections will be held on May 17 and cited "irresponsible conduct".
As the head of all authorities in Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah could either have accepted the government's resignation or issued a decree dissolving the parliament and calling for fresh polls.

If Sheikh Sabah accepts the cabinet's resignation, then he can ask Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti prime minister, to form a new government or ask someone else to become the premier.

However, in a televised speech the emir announced he had decided to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

Blame game

The government has placed the blame entirely on the parliament while the speaker of the Kuwaiti parliament said even the government should share the responsibility of the crisis.

However, a number of parliamentarians had expressed fear that the parliament could be suspended altogether and said if that happened, then they 'will go to the street to oppose it.'

The Kuwaiti parliament has been suspended twice before for five years in 1976 and for six years in 1986.

Kuwait wants to diversify its economy away from gas and oil, emulating Gulf neighbours such as Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain, but a bill to set up a financial regulator and open the stock market to foreign investment has stalled.

While parliament has made some progress on reforms by cutting tax on foreign investors, matters came to a head on Monday after deputies demanded another raise for public sector workers, just a month after the cabinet had approved one.

More than 90 per cent of Kuwaitis work in the public sector.

Saad Al-Anazi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kuwait City, said new elections may still not resolve the differences.

"It will still be a tug-of-war," he said. "Here we are going to find there are still some more prices to pay."

Chronic crisis

Ahmad al-Mulaifi, a parliamentarian, said 'the government should go' and called for changes within the ruling al-Sabah family.

He said the premier had failed to carry out reforms and resolve the nation's crisis.

Kuwaiti commentators on Wednesday said that neither dissolving parliament nor sacking the government would resolve the country's chronic political dilemmas.

Madhi al-Khamees, a columnist, said: "The crisis will not be resolved by sacking the government or its head. It wil not be resolved by dissolving parliament or even by suspending democratic life."

Chequered past

Over the past two years, Kuwait has gone through several political crises triggered by power struggles, the resignation of four governments, dissolution of parliament and general election in 2006.

The country has also been experiencing sectarian tensions after activists from the Shia minority held a rally last month to mourn the death of Imad Mughnieh, Hezbollah militia commander, killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria.

Political parties are banned in Kuwait and elections are fought on individual basis though groupings are allowed to operate.

Unlike western-style democracy, the prime minister in Kuwait is picked from the ruling al-Sabah family only.

Source:
Agencies
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