Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah announced on March 19 his decision to dissolve the parliament, citing its "irresponsible conduct." New elections will be held on May 17. The decision followed the resignation of the cabinet on March 17, less than a year after it was sworn in, complaining of a lack of cooperation by the national assembly. The cabinet resignation left Sheikh Sabah with two options under the constitution: to order the formation of a new cabinet or to dissolve the parliament and call for new elections within two months. A continuing government-parliament standoff has paralyzed political life in Kuwait and delayed key economic development projects. This is the fifth time the parliament has been dissolved since it was set up in 1963. Sheikh Sabah’s predecessors suspended parliamentary life from 1976-81 and 1986-92.
On March 26, Kuwaiti police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of tribesmen protesting the arrest of eight men for organizing an illegal form of primary elections. The eight men from Kuwait's major Bedouin tribes were remanded in police custody after interrogation about their role in organizing tribal elections banned by law. Kuwaiti tribes often resort to primary elections in a bid to field a small number of candidates to boost their chances of winning seats in parliament.
Former Shi’i MPs Abdulmohsen Jamal and Nasser Sorkhouh were released on a 10,000 dinar bail (U.S. $37,855) on March 25, after being arrested and interrogated by Kuwait’s public prosecutor. The MPs had been detained since March 9 on suspicion of membership in an alleged “Kuwaiti Hizbollah.” Police also arrested prominent Shi’i cleric Sheikh Hussein al-Maatuq and four other activists on the same charge. All activists denied the accusation. The public prosecutor indicated that he will press formal charges after the necessary inquiries are completed. The crackdown follows a rally last month to mourn Hizbollah military commander Imad Mughniyah, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus.
On March 8, a Kuwait City criminal court withdrew the licenses of two weekly newspapers, al-Abraj and al-Shaab, in two separate cases. The court fined al-Abraj editor Mansour al-Hayni and al-Shaab editor Hamed Abu Yabes 9,000 Kuwaiti dinars (U.S. $33,785) each. Al-Hayni was convicted of "besmirching the prime minister's reputation" while Yabes was convicted of publishing political articles in a newspaper licensed only to cover arts and culture. Click here for more information.