Kuwait cabinet sets snap election for May 16
The Kuwaiti cabinet on Monday approved a decree setting May 16 for snap parliamentary elections, state minister for cabinet affairs Faisal al-Hajji said.
The decree will now be issued by the emir, who last month dissolved parliament for the third time in as many years following a bitter dispute between MPs and the government.
The new general election will be the second in a year and the third since May 2006 in the Western-backed oil-rich Gulf state that has been rocked by a series of political crises.
The outgoing parliament was elected on May 17, 2008 but it barely lasted for 10 months as it was dissolved after Islamist MPs filed three requests to quiz the prime minister over a variety of allegations.
The demands had prompted the cabinet to tender its resignation in support of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, a nephew of the emir.
After dissolving parliament, the emir, whose country is the main rear base for US-led operations in neighbouring Iraq, said he took the decision to "safeguard the security of the nation and its stability."
He accused the 50-member chamber of abusing its constitutional powers and warned he would not "hesitate to take any step to safeguard the country's security."
The elections decree opens the door for registration of candidates, which is expected to begin within the next few days.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who ascended to throne three years ago, on Sunday issued a stern warning to those "who undermine national unity in the election campaign."
Chairing an extraordinary cabinet meeting, the emir ordered the government to take legal action against all those who "foment factional, tribal and sectarian" disputes in society.
Last week, police arrested trade union leader Khaled al-Tahus, who said he will run in the election, after he told a public rally that tribesmen will resist security forces if they crack down on tribal primary elections.
In the run up to last year's polls, police clashed with tribesmen who defied a ban on primary elections and hundreds were arrested in the process.
Tahus was interrogated on Monday by the public prosecution on charges that he instigated tribesmen to resist security forces and that he undermined the authority of the emir. His detention was renewed for another day.
Kuwait has had a parliament since 1962, longer than any of the other five Gulf Arab states. But it does not enjoy powers equivalent to those in Western parliamentary democracies and cannot bring down a cabinet, although it can hold censure votes against individual ministers.
Kuwaiti parliaments have been suspended twice in the past -- in 1976 for five years and then in 1986 for six years.
Since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war, in which the emirate was liberated from Iraqi occupation by a US-led coalition, dissolutions of parliament have always been followed by snap elections.
Women, who gained full political rights in 2005, will take part in the elections as voters and candidates. About 54 female candidates contested the last two general polls but without success.
Opec's fourth largest producer, Kuwait pumps around 2.2 million barrels per day. It has a citizen population of less than 1.1 million, and 2.35 million foreign residents.
The Gulf state's oil income has been sharply reduced by the global economic slowdown and the resulting big falls in world petroleum prices.
The key energy sector provides more than 90 percent of state revenues.