Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Emir dissolves Kuwaiti parliament to end crisis

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , DUBAI

Kuwait's emir dissolved the country's 50-member parliament on Sunday evening, ending a weeklong battle over a proposed redistricting law that threatened to cause a governmental crisis.

The emir, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, called new elections for June 29, almost a year ahead of schedule.

Opposition members of parliament, who support the redistricting, have been pressing to reduce the country's 25 electoral districts to five, contending that the government is able to use tribal and family loyalties -- and downright corruption -- to control the outcome in some smaller districts. With larger districts that would include a greater variety of Kuwaitis, the opposition parties expect that they would be able to fare better.

A ministerial committee recently recommended that the number of districts be reduced to 10, in an apparent compromise. But last week, members loyal to the government pressed to refer the bill to the country's constitutional court, which the opposition saw as a stalling tactic.

The move prompted a walkout by 29 members, who came together and formed a new parliamentary bloc, demanding to question the prime minister, Sheik Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah. Such an appearance before parliament by the prime minister, a member of the royal family, would have been an unprecedented development in Kuwaiti politics.

In a televised speech after dissolving parliament, Sabah, the emir, said it was his "duty to dissolve the parliament to preserve the security and stability of Kuwait," the official Kuwaiti news agency reported.

"I was obliged to make a difficult decision," said Sabah, who took power in January. The conflict, he said, "has driven us away from the rest of our priorities and practices, some of which deviated from the sound parliamentary discourse."

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