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Middle East
Kuwaiti emir dissolves parliament
Emir says MPs have abused democracy and become a threat to political stability.
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2009 04:30 GMT
The emir issued a decree dissolving parliament for the second time in a year [AFP]
 

The emir of Kuwait has dissolved parliament for the second time in a year after a bitter dispute with the government.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah also called for a snap general election to elect a new 50-seat parliament.

Sheikh Sabah did not give a date for new elections, but under the Kuwaiti constitution they must be held within two months.

The emir said the MPs had abused democracy and become a threat to stability, pointing out that the people needed to choose another parliament because national unity was in danger.

It is the second time in a year the emir has disbanded the confrontational legislature, which has a contentious relationship with the cabinet.

'Rights and responsibilities'

"The decision I took today was not an easy one", he said.

"Parliament has rights, but they come with responsibilities. Democracy is a tool, not a goal in itself."

The Kuwaiti government resigned on Monday, a day before parliamentarians were due to question Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah, the prime minister.

Nasser is alleged of mismanagement, breach of the constitution and misuse of public funds.

Saad al-Anezi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kuwait City, said: "Several MPs launched three tough questions against the prime minister, which is unprecedented in Kuwaiti history and is being described by the emir as an action that has exceeded all boundaries.

"Although he dissolved parliament, he called for new elections, and at the same time, is going to appoint a new prime minister, who is the crown prince who will be constitutionally protected from future grillings."

Kuwait's political crisis has delayed several bills, such as a stimulus package and a plan to set up a financial regulator.

"You have the economic crisis, with many people losing money on the stock market. The government responded by presenting a rescue plan to save some banks and some investment companies.

"Many MPs said they wouldn't approve this unless the government would buy the loans of many Kuwaitis, which amount to almost $18bn. The government found this totally unacceptable," al-Anezi said.

Predicted move

The emir's move was largely expected. Many, including some parliamentarians, have said the accusations were actually unfair, overly vague and personal in nature.

Parliament has a large contingent of conservative Islamist members that are often at odds with the ruling cabinet.

"The Islamists don't have a majority, but are a strong bloc. Between them, and if you add the tribal groups, the current parliament is a very conservative parliament," Al Jazeera's correspondent said.

"Many of the issues that come up are social and religious. One of the grillings against the prime minister was in fact about the destruction of a mosque that was illegally built."

Parliament was last dismissed in March 2008 in a bid to end clashes between the government and parliament members.

Since becoming prime minister in 2006, Nasser has resigned five times due to political disputes with MPs.

Kuwaiti leaders have dissolved the legislature five times since 1976, mostly to prevent parliamentarians from interrogating cabinet members or calling no-confidence votes.

No head of government has ever faced questioning by legislators.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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