Kuwait scraps parliamentary poll with final court decision
Kuwait's top court on Sunday scrapped last December's parliamentary election, which was boycotted by the opposition, but approved the controversial electoral law that sparked the boycott.
The constitutional court, whose rulings are final, dissolved the current loyalist-dominated parliament and ordered a fresh election, in the verdict read out by presiding judge Yousef al-Mutawah.
It was the second time in a year that the court had ordered a dissolution of parliament. Last June, it scrapped an opposition-dominated parliament, saying there had been flaws in the procedures that led to its election.
Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, decreed the controversial amendment to the electoral law last October intensifying a bitter dispute that had engulfed the emirate since 2006, sparking street protests, some of which turned violent.
The electoral law passed in 2006 allowed each eligible voter to choose a maximum of four candidates. The amendment reduced the number to just one.
The court ruled the amendment "in line with the constitution".
It said it was scrapping the December election because a second decree issued by the emir last October, which had set up a National Election Commission, was unconstitutional.
Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition groups had rejected the electoral law amendment charging that it had enabled the government to manipulate election results and subsequent legislation.
The emir, who had vowed to accept the court's verdict whatever it might be, was scheduled to address the nation later on Sunday, state media said.
The court ruled that all legislation passed by the now dissolved parliament would stand.
Its speaker, Ali al-Rashed, confirmed that the new election would be held on the basis of the amended law despite threats by the opposition in recent weeks to repeat their boycott.
The opposition said it would hold a special meeting later on Sunday to assess the situation.
Even though the government is appointed by the emir, Kuwait was long looked upon by neighbouring Gulf states as a relative beacon of democracy, with its vibrant parliament and freedom of speech.
But the image has been tarnished by years of non-stop wrangling since the electoral law was changed in 2006.
The 50 MPs elected in December's now-scrapped vote were all government loyalists, as a result of the opposition boycott.