- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

KUWAIT CITY (AP) - Kuwait’s emir dissolved parliament Wednesday and called for new elections within two months, saying some lawmakers had abused democracy and become a threat to stability.

The emir’s move is the latest chapter in the nation’s ongoing political crisis that pits a fractious parliament against the government at a time when the tiny, oil-rich U.S. ally is struggling to deal with the effects of the global financial crisis.

“God knows the decision I made today was not easy for me,” said Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah in a televised speech.

It is the second time in a year the emir has disbanded the confrontational legislature. Parliament has the power of budget oversight and the right to question and impeach ministers, but the final word rests with the head of state who can disband it.

The move was largely expected after the Cabinet resigned two days ago to prevent the prime minister from being questioned by lawmakers accusing him of misuse of funds and failing to run the country.

The prime minister is the emir’s nephew. The ruling family does not believe it should be questioned by parliament.

Many, including some parliamentarians, have said the accusations were unfair, overly vague and personal. Parliament has a large contingent of conservative Islamist members that are often at odds with the Cabinet.

The political standoff has stymied economic development at a time when the country, which sits on 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, is reeling from the global economic meltdown and falling oil prices.

The emir conceded the Cabinet was partly to blame in repeated political crises over recent years, but said the assembly was not helping matters by misusing its constitutional tools.

Al-Watan daily columnist Nabil al-Fadhel expressed doubt to The Associated Press that new elections would make any difference and expected the Kuwaitis to elect pretty much the same parliament as they had last year after it was dissolved.

“We Arabs don’t know what to do with democracy,” he said. “The dissolution should have been without a call for fresh elections to give the country time to breathe and … infuse some democratic culture into the people.”

His comments reflected a general dissatisfaction with the country’s brand of democracy that has no political parties, leaving the Cabinet without any support in parliament.

The ruling family dominates the key portfolios of interior, foreign affairs and defense.

Kuwait’s parliament previously was dissolved five times over its 47-year history.



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