Kuwait court dissolves parliament, orders new vote

Kuwait’s constitutional court on Sunday ordered the dissolution of parliament and called for a new vote, but approved a controversial electoral law that sparked massive street protests last year.
Kuwait’s opposition boycotted the December parliamentary elections over changes to the electoral law which it said benefits candidates allied with the ruling monarchs.
The court, whose rulings are final, called for a fresh election to replace the current loyalist-dominated parliament, in the verdict read out by presiding judge Yousef al-Mutawah.
Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, decreed the controversial amendment to the electoral law last October intensifying a bitter dispute which had engulfed the emirate since 2006, sparking street protests which were violently suppressed by riot police.
The electoral law passed in 2006 allows each eligible voter to choose a maximum of four candidates. The amendment reduced the number to just one.
Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition groups had charged that the emir’s decree was unconstitutional and that it had enabled the government to manipulate election results and subsequent legislation.
Opposition members had warned of serious consequences if the court upheld the decree, saying it would effectively undermine Kuwait’s parliamentary system.
The emir had vowed to accept the court’s verdict whatever it might be.
The 50-seat parliament elected in December’s now scrapped vote was entirely composed of MPs loyal to the government, which is appointed by the emir, as a result of the opposition boycott.
Kuwaiti authorities in recent months have intensified a crackdown on dissidents and Internet users who criticize the ruling family.
In February, Human Rights Watch said prosecutors had charged nearly 25 people with offending the emir, sentencing at least six to jail terms, since October.
The Sabah family has ruled Kuwait for over 250 years. The emir, crown prince, prime minister and key cabinet ministers all hail from the ruling family.