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Middle East

Cabinet approves parliament dissolution

Latest update : 2009-03-18

The Kuwaiti cabinet agreed on Wednesday to dissolve parliament and hold elections in May, arising over a dispute between the cabinet and the MPs after PM Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah (pictured) was accused of corruption.

AFP - The Kuwaiti cabinet approved a decree on Wednesday to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections within two months, a government source told AFP.

"The outgoing cabinet held an emergency meeting today and approved a decree dissolving parliament and calling for new elections within two months," said the source, who requested anonymity.

He said he expected the election to be held in mid-May.

The decree will be issued by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah either later Wednesday or on Thursday, a source in parliament said.

The cabinet resigned in a dispute with MPs after a call for Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah to be grilled over allegations of mismanagement, breach of the constitution and misuse of public funds.

The 50-seat parliament's dissolution would be the second in a year and the third since March 2006.

An election would also be the third in as many years, with all sparked by parliamentary disputes with the government.

On Tuesday, several MPs said they expected the emir to suspend parliament for two years because of the political wrangling.

The new move came after the ruling Al-Sabah family met on Wednesday to approve it and also recommended the appointment of a new premier, lawmakers said.

Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a half brother of the emir, will become prime minister but only after the general election, a lawmaker told AFP.

Kuwait has been rocked by political crises in recent years and has also been hit hard by the world economic meltdown and the plunge in global oil prices.

Political showdowns between the government and parliament have been blamed for stalling vital development projects, including in the key energy sector that provides more than 90 percent of public revenues.

Recently the emirate scrapped a 7.5-billion-dollar deal with US giant Dow Chemical to set up a joint petrochemical venture after MPs raised questions over the value and feasibility of the deal.

The prime minister said on Sunday the government would halt a 15-billion-dollar project to build a new 630,000 barrels per day refinery which was strongly opposed by MPs.

A government-sponsored multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus bill to aid ailing investment companies and banks has been held in parliament for six weeks over opposition by MPs that it squanders public funds.

Although parliament has vast legislative powers and monitors the government, it cannot vote a cabinet out of office but can stage no-confidence votes targeting individual ministers.

Since embracing parliamentary democracy in 1962, the Kuwaiti assembly has been suspended twice -- in 1976 for five years and then in 1986 for six years -- because of strained relations with the government.

Kuwait, OPEC's fourth largest producer, pumps around 2.2 million barrels per day. It has a native population of just under 1.1 million, in addition to 2.35 million foreign residents.

Date created : 2009-03-18