Bloomberg News

Kuwait’s Emir Dissolves Parliament Paving Way for Elections

October 07, 2012

Kuwait’s parliament was dissolved today for the third time in less than a year, a move welcomed by opposition members that paves the way for fresh elections.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah issued a decree disbanding the National Assembly, elected in 2009, state media reported. It came 12 days after the Constitutional Court ruled against a government bid to amend the election law and was seen as a victory for the opposition, which said that attempt amounted to gerrymandering by an administration defeated at the polls in February.

“The 2009 assembly has gone without regret,” former opposition lawmaker Mubarak Al-Waalan said on his Twitter account. “We strongly warn the government against attempting to amend the electoral system.”

No date was given for the elections, which require another emiri decree to take place. Elections must be held within two months of parliament being dissolved, according to Kuwait’s Constitution.

The 2009 parliament was first dissolved by the emir in December after a dispute over corruption allegations sparked unprecedented anti-government protests. A new parliament was elected in February, with the opposition winning most of the 50 seats, only to be dissolved four months later when the Constitutional Court voided the vote and reinstated its predecessor.

The opposition had considered the reinstated parliament to be illegal and lawmakers boycotted two sessions since July.

‘Legitimacy at Stake’

“Legitimacy is at stake,” Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, said by phone today. “Whatever change happens has to be acceptable to all sides. We’ve not yet reached the stage where we can say Kuwait has reached a stage of democratic transition,” though “the conditions are becoming right,” he said.

Kuwait’s steps toward democracy have led to repeated clashes between parliament and governments chosen by the ruling Al-Sabah family. The economy has trailed Gulf peers with investment projects being derailed by political disputes. Street protests last year, amplified by the wave of unrest across the Arab world, drove out a government headed by the emir’s nephew amid calls for more power-sharing with elected politicians.

Kuwait, the third-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has had seven parliamentary dissolutions since 1962. Parliament was also unconstitutionally suspended in 1976 and again in 1986. The country has had 10 Cabinets since February 2006.

While hailing last month’s court ruling as a victory, the opposition had called for the dissolution of the 2009 house and fresh elections. Kuwait’s opposition includes Islamists, liberals and independents, as well as youth groups that draw inspiration from the Arab Spring uprisings.

Some groups want a constitutional monarchy and an elected government, while others say their focus is fighting corruption and bringing about reform without amending the Constitution.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fiona MacDonald in Kuwait at fmacdonald4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net


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