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Kuwait's emir dissolves parliament

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 7, 2011 -- Updated 0029 GMT (0829 HKT)
Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, pictured in November, has dissolved the country's national assembly.
Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, pictured in November, has dissolved the country's national assembly.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "It's been getting pretty nasty," RAND policy analyst says
  • Kuwait's leader orders parliament dissolved
  • The move comes a week after the prime minister and cabinet resigned

(CNN) -- The emir of Kuwait dissolved his country's parliament Tuesday, three weeks after opposition protesters forced their way into the legislature to demand the prime minister step down.

"Due to the deteriorating conditions that ... threatened the country's higher interests, it became necessary to resort to the people to select their representatives, overcome existing obstacles and realize national interests," Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said in a decree published by the state-run Kuwait News Agency.

The move comes slightly more than a week after Al-Sabah accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a member of the Persian Gulf state's royal family, and his cabinet.

Nasser said "negative practices" of a minority of members had made progress impossible. He accused them of promoting disunity, questioning the integrity of the country's leaders and fabricating unfounded accusations.

The decree did not set a date for new elections. Kuwait's last parliamentary vote was held in 2009.

Protesters demand change in Kuwait

Though Kuwait's National Assembly is elected, the emir appoints the prime minister and the deputy prime ministers. Opposition members had forced six previous governments led by Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah to resign, but demonstrators who stormed the National Assembly on November 16 demanded the prime minister's resignation as well. The emir accepted the resignation 12 days later.

Protests alleging political corruption have taken place since before the Arab Spring brought about demonstrations throughout the region.

The emir denounced the November 16 demonstration as "an unprecedented step on the path to anarchy and lawlessness," and said that the demonstrators were putting the country at risk by their actions.

Tuesday's dissolution of parliament "will make things more stable," predicted Fred Wehrey, senior policy analyst focusing on the Gulf at the RAND Corporation, who was in Kuwait last year working on this issue. RAND is a policy institute.

He noted that parliament has been dissolved seven times since parliamentary elections began in 1963. The fact that three of those dissolutions occurred since the former prime minister was brought to power in 2006 "shows you how polarizing a figure he was and how destabilizing his reign was."

Though Kuwait has the most democratic system in the Gulf, personal animosity toward the former prime minister had made it highly dysfunctional, Wehrey said.

"It's been getting pretty nasty," he added.

The new prime minister will have to address some of the protesters' grievances, such as lowering corruption, increasing employment outside Kuwait City and improving social services, Wehrey said.

"The government is perceived as dysfunctional and not able to meet the needs of its citizens," he said. Under a new parliament, "ordinary Kuwaitis will probably breathe a sigh of relief."

Kuwait is run by a royal family subject to some scrutiny by parliament. "That's a good thing," Wehrey said. "At the same time, it's not a real democracy. They try to manage the parliament. Every time they get out of control, they dissolve it."

The monarchy now has breathing room to regroup, he said.

In Kuwait City, the head of a think tank predicted Tuesday's dissolution of the parliament would have little impact.

"I believe it's an attempt, in my opinion, to throw the ball into the opposition's court" by giving them what they demanded, said Sami Alfaraj, director of the Center for Strategic Studies, a private think tank dedicated to strategic issues in the Gulf and Kuwait.

But the opposition is not in an enviable position because it cannot improve the system of managing the economy in the midst of the international crisis, said Alfaraj.

"It is more difficult for any government today to really bring resources and to give to the people what they demand -- a better life," he said.

One problem is that, while Kuwait is rich, it lacks the leadership needed to lead the country, Alfaraj said.

"I think the malaise that afflicts Kuwait is social," he said, citing a lack of work ethic among the nation's young. "There is no work ethic in government behavior and, therefore, we have corruption."

The revolutionary youth of Cairo, Tunisia and Morocco were looking for jobs they do not have, he said. "The ones in Kuwait feel they are revolutionaries but they have jobs and they don't go to their jobs. They have the passion for being revolutionaries, but for what? I don't know."

Though eradicating corruption has been trumpeted as a goal of the opposition leaders, that goal is unrealistic, Alfaraj said.

"They are very good in talking about politics, but they know nothing about management," he said. "They are too young."

The median age of Kuwait's population is 28.5 years, according to the CIA World Factbook. The country's population is 2.6 million people, half of whom are non-nationals.

CNN's Tom Watkins contributed to this story

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