Kuwaiti opposition demand "full parliamentary system"

Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:01am EDT

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* Opposition demand full parliamentary system, elected government

* Call likely to deepen standoff with the government

* Parliament speaker opposes restoring old parliament

By Mahmoud Harby

KUWAIT, June 22 (Reuters) - Kuwaiti members of parliament have called for a "full parliamentary system", local media said on Friday, raising the stakes in a standoff with the government dominated by the ruling al-Sabah family.

"Constitutional amendments reaching to a full parliamentary system have become an inescapable necessity in order to prevent the authorities from meddling in the will of the nation," said a statement on the online www.alaan.cc news website.

The website listed 35 members of the Islamist-led parliament as signatories to the statement, which came after lengthy meetings in Kuwait City.

MPs have been pushing for an elected government to loosen the al-Sabah family's grip on power in the OPEC member state, where thousands of U.S. troops are stationed.

Despite having one of the more vibrant parliaments in the Gulf region, the emir appoints the prime minister, usually from the ruling family, and has the final say on state affairs.

Kuwaiti MPs have also said that more than half of the 50-member parliament were resigning their posts - effectively checking a constitutional court ruling this week which annulled elections held in February and reinstated a parliament installed in 2009.

The court ruling on Wednesday added to political turmoil by attempting to reinstate a less confrontational parliament installed in 2009. But this would become impossible to achieve if MPs refused to sit in the assembly.

Ahmed al-Saadoun, speaker of the assembly elected in February, warned against allowing the 2009 parliament to convene.

"Constitutional reforms are now due, and it is not an issue of a parliament that gets dissolved, because this council may be replaced by a better one. It is the issue of the stability of our democratic system," he said.

The latest crisis was the culmination of tensions between parliament and the government over calls by MPs to grill ministers over the conduct of their ministries.

Members of the cabinet are usually chosen from outside parliament, with only one seat allocated to a member of the assembly.

Opposition lawmakers have been demanding that nine seats on the cabinet be allocated to parliament members, a move that could make the government more accountable to the assembly. Kuwaiti media have said the opposition had been offered only four posts.

Kuwait's oil wealth and a generous welfare state had helped it avoid the "Arab Spring" protests seen elsewhere in the region. But sporadic protests have taken place in recent months. (Writing by Sami Aboudi)

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