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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 January 2019

Kuwait parliament dissolved amid tensions

Emir cites regional developments and security concerns in decree, which was issued ahead of planned questioning by MPs of government's steep hike in petrol prices.
Kuwait’s National Assembly was days from entering the final year of its four-year term. Gustavo Ferrari / AP Photo / December 16, 2012
Kuwait’s National Assembly was days from entering the final year of its four-year term. Gustavo Ferrari / AP Photo / December 16, 2012

Kuwait City // Kuwait’s emir dissolved parliament on Sunday amid tensions between legislators and the government over a petrol price hike, setting the stage for early elections within two months.

The surprise move came after legislators strongly opposed the government’s unilateral increase of petrol prices – one of a host of austerity measures following a sharp drop in crude revenues.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah’s decree made no direct mention of the tensions, instead referring to “delicate regional developments” and “the dangers of security challenges”.

“It became necessary to go back to the people ... to elect their representatives ... and contribute to confronting those challenges,” the decree said.

The move was based on a recommendation from the cabinet, which held an emergency meeting earlier in the day to discuss the political situation.

It came less than 24 hours after parliament speaker Marzouk Al Ghanem called for snap elections, following three requests from members of parliament to question ministers over the petrol price hike and alleged financial and administrative violations.

No date was set for fresh polls but under the Kuwaiti constitution early elections must be held within two months of the dissolution of the house.

Kuwaiti political analyst Saleh Al Saeedi said the dissolution came as a surprise given the current parliament’s outspoken support for most government measures.

“This has been the most cooperative parliament with the government,” Mr Al Saeedi said.

The 50-member parliament would have entered the final year of its four-year term on Tuesday.

Kuwait enjoyed relative stability in the past three years following almost seven years of political turmoil arising from disputes between MPs, mainly from the opposition, and the government.

Almost all opposition groups boycotted the previous elections in protest against the government’s unilateral change of the voting system.

But many of them have already said they will take part in the coming election.

This is the seventh time a Kuwaiti parliament has been dissolved either by the emir or by courts since 2006.

Parliament enjoys legislative and monitoring powers but the government is formed from outside elected MPs and is headed by a senior member of the Al Sabah ruling family.

The Opec member – which pumps about 3 million barrels of oil per day – has undertaken a series of measures, including the raising of petrol prices by 40 to 80 per cent, to deal with the fall in oil prices to historic lows.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: October 16, 2016 04:00 AM

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