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Sun 18 Dec 2011 05:27 PM

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Kuwait pulls election date forward to Feb 2

Emir opts for early parliamentary election as Gulf state’s political crisis deepens

Kuwait pulls election date forward to Feb 2
Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Sunday
decreed that an early parliamentary election would take place on Feb 2, the
privately-owned al-Rai television reported.

The decision comes nearly two weeks after the emir dissolved
following the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Sheikh
Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah last month in one of the deepest political crises
in the oil-exporting state

At the time, the emir had set no date for an election, which
under the constitution must be held within two months from the date parliament
is dissolved.

The OPEC member and US ally has been locked in a
long-running political battle between the government, dominated by the ruling
al Sabah family, and the 50-member elected parliament.

Oil wealth and a generous welfare state have helped Kuwait
to escape the kind of uprisings that have ousted heads of state in other Arab
countries this year.

But the Gulf Arab state caught a whiff of unrest when
opposition lawmakers and protesters stormed parliament last month to demand the
resignation of Sheikh Nasser, amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption,
which he denies.

The raid on parliament came after the cabinet blocked an
opposition request to question the prime minister. The opposition said the
cabinet's move was unconstitutional.

The crisis forced Sheikh Nasser and his cabinet to step
down, and the emir has since named outgoing Defence Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak
al-Sabah, another member of the ruling family, as the new prime minister.

The emir last week swore in a new government consisting
mainly of ministers from the previous administration of Sheikh Nasser, to
prepare for the election.