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Kuwait dissolves parliament until election in May

By Agencies


Kuwait's ruler dissolved parliament on Wednesday and will set a fresh election in May, lawmakers said, days after the cabinet of the Gulf Arab oil exporter resigned over months political wrangling.


Lawmakers said that Jassem Al Kharafi, the speaker of the dissolved house, had been informed of the decision but state media had yet to publish the official decree.


The ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who has the last say in Kuwaiti politics, would announce the dissolution and call the new election in a televised address later on Wednesday, they said.


The decision to dissolve parliament comes after the cabinet resigned on Monday, less than a year after it was sworn in, complaining of a lack of cooperation from an assembly that has repeatedly challenged ministers.


The cabinet resignation left Sheikh Sabah with two options under the Kuwaiti constitution: either to call for the formation of a new cabinet or to dissolve parliament and call new a election within two months.


The parliament has been dissolved four times since it was established in 1963. Sheikh Sabah's predecessors suspended the assembly for six years in 1986 and five years in 1976.


He cut short a holiday to Morocco and returned late on Tuesday to deal with the crisis, holding urgent consultations with Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Sabah, Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah and Kharafi.


"This is a wrong decision," Mohammad Jassem Al Saqr, the head of parliament's foreign affairs committee told Al Jazeera television by telephone from Beirut.


State television was showing excerpts from a previous speech by the emir in which he had urged deputies and the government to work together for the sake of the country, but to little avail.


The standoff had paralysed political life and delayed economic reform in the major Opec producer.


Kuwait wants to diversify the economy away from oil to emulate the success of Gulf neighbours Dubai or Bahrain which have become regional financial centres. But a bill to set up a financial regulator and open up the stock market to more foreign investment has been stalled in parliament.


Deputies have also forced the cabinet to set up a fund to buy back bad debts Kuwaiti nationals incurred from shopping sprees, in a blow to plans to reduce dependence on the state.


Kuwait has yet to name an oil minister to replace Badr Al Humaidhi, who resigned days after his appointment in November under pressure from hostile deputies. The previous cabinet had resigned to avert a parliamentary no-confidence vote in the then health minister, a member of the ruling family. (Reuters)