Kuwaiti emir to make next move in political standoff - speaker

KUWAIT Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:45am EDT

Kuwait's Speaker of the Parliament Jassim al-Kharafi waves as he arrives at parliament in Kuwait City May 10, 2011. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

Kuwait's Speaker of the Parliament Jassim al-Kharafi waves as he arrives at parliament in Kuwait City May 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stephanie McGehee

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's parliament will not try to convene but will turn to the emir for the next move in a political standoff between legislators and the government, the assembly speaker said, which could lead to parliament's dissolution and fresh elections.

The oil producer and OPEC member has been grappling with long-running political tensions between an elected parliament and the government, led by a prime minister chosen by the ruler and by a cabinet with ruling family members holding the major portfolios.

Kuwait has been unable to hold a parliamentary session for several months after its top court effectively dissolved the opposition-dominated parliament, which was elected in February, basing its decision on a technicality.

The previous, more government-tilted assembly that the court reinstated has been unable to convene due to a boycott by MPs.

"The issue is in the hands of the emir," speaker Jassim Kharafi told a news conference on Thursday, adding he would not seek to convene parliament.

Analysts say another dissolution is likely soon, with a new election this year or next.

At a time of mass uprisings in other Arab states, Kuwait's opposition lawmakers, who include tribal MPs, Salafis and more moderate Islamists and liberals, have grown more assertive since the middle of last year.

Parliamentary approval is usually needed for major bills and approval of the budget. However the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, can pass laws by decree when parliament is not in session and has the final say on state matters.

Political upheaval in the U.S. ally has stalled major investment projects and held up reforms aimed at diversifying its oil-reliant economy.

On Tuesday, Kuwait's top court rejected a government bid to alter voting boundaries, which means that a new assembly following another round of elections is likely to have a similar make-up to the last one and could also clash with the government.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Harbi, Writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Jane Baird)