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Kuwait: Emir dissolves parliament, a month after elections

May 11, 2024

The tiny oil-rich nation along the Persian Gulf has seen four elections in as many years, underscoring a political gridlock between the assembly and the royals and their appointed government.

Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber speaking in the Kuwaiti parliament. Archive image from 2020.
Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber has dissolved parliament and called new elections multiple times in just a few yearsImage: XinHua/dpa/picture alliance

Kuwait emir dissolved the country's parliament once again, just a month after the snap elections following his last dissolution of parliament.

Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber suspended several articles of the constitution on Friday as well, saying they would be suspended for a "period of no more than four years" without elaborating.

The tiny nation with some 4.2 million people, also one of the wealthiest in the world on a per capita basis, has seen a rise in domestic political turmoil.

Kuwait is typically seen as one the more democratic Gulf monarchies, with some real power invested in elected officials, but that status seems increasingly at risk.

The elections last month were the fourth to be held in as many years, again after the emir dissolved parliament at short notice.

The assembly and the appointed government have not been able to move past political gridlock in recent years and that has prevented the enactment of basic reforms in the country.

The impasse, for example, has prevented the country from taking on debt, and that has left it with little in its coffers to pay bloated public sector salaries despite its immense oil revenues.

Many say the government has not properly invested in education, healthcare and other services. Kuwait, a staunch US ally, has the world's sixth largest oil reserve.

Sheikh says will not allow 'misuse of democracy' to 'destroy the state'

Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber said in a speech carried by state television on Friday that the "unhealthy atmosphere experienced by Kuwait in previous years has encouraged the spread of corruption to reach most state facilities, and unfortunately it reached the security and economic institutions."

He added that he would "never allow the misuse of democracy to destroy the state, because the interests of the people of Kuwait, which are above all."

Kuwait is alone among Gulf Arab countries in having a democratically elected parliament that exerts some checks on the ruling family, which nevertheless appoints the government and can dissolve the assembly at will.

It hosts some 13,500 American military personnel as well as the forward headquarters of the US Army in the Middle East.

rm/msh (AP, Reuters)