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Political impasse in Kuwait can delay approval of reforms

Kuwait's parliament has been dissolved four times since 1963. (AFP)

By Reuters

Kuwait's ruler could move to dissolve parliament in the leading oil exporter in the coming days to avoid deputies questioning the prime minister, parliamentary sources said yesterday.

The political paralysis could delay approval of key legislation and economic reforms that investors hope will help Kuwait through the financial crisis. The bourse closed higher for a second day on speculation about the dispute.

Parliament is due to discuss a 1.5 billion dinars (Dh18.6bn) economic rescue package on March 17, the day the body hopes to question the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah.

"We have information that the parliament will be dissolved within days," parliament deputy Saadoun Hammad Al Otaibi said. Another deputy who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was a "high possibility" of such a move.

Frequent cabinet changes usually do not affect the oil policies of Opec-member Kuwait, the world's seventh-largest oil exporter, which are set by a high state energy council.

Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera said earlier that the Amir His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, would issue a decree to dissolve parliament within two days and hold elections within two months. There was no confirmation of the report on state media and officials could not be reached for comment. A move to question the prime minister led to the resignation of the previous cabinet in November. But the Amir then reappointed the same prime minister to form a new government in the latest episode of a long-running tug-of-war between parliament and the royal family that has dogged Kuwait for years.

The royal family views questioning the prime minister as a red line in its uneasy relationship with the elected body.

An Islamist deputy provoked the crisis with a request to question the prime minister over alleged financial irregularities at his office. Parliament has the authority to question ministers and approve or reject government budgets and bills. Islamists and tribal factions form the strongest groups there.

Kuwait's parliament has been dissolved four times since it was established in the year 1963.

Sheikh Sabah's predecessors suspended the assembly for six years in 1986 and five years in 1976.

The Amir dissolved parliament a year ago to end another row.

Kuwaiti shares see a jump

Kuwaiti shares rose the most in two months, led by banks and investment companies, as reports that there were plans to dissolve parliament boosted speculation the head of state may pass a financial-bailout programme by decree.

The Stock Exchange Index rose 2.8 per cent to 6,578.30, its biggest gain since December 23. The Kuwait Banking Sector Index rose 4.5 per cent, while Kuwait Investment Sector Index rose 4.2 per cent.