Kuwait's Emir Dissolves Parliament Again, Amid Political Gridlock In Oil-Rich Nation

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kuwait's emir again dissolved the small, oil-rich country's parliament Friday, citing the political deadlock that has prevailed in recent years.

Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber made the announcement in an address carried by state television, saying other unspecified portions of the constitution had been suspended as well. He put the suspension at “a period of no more than four years,” without elaborating.

“The unhealthy atmosphere experienced by Kuwait in previous years has encouraged the spread of corruption to reach most state facilities, and unfortunately it reached the security and economic institutions,” the 83-year-old Sheikh Meshal said. “It has even affected the justice system, which is the people sanctuary of their rights and freedom.”

He added: “I will never allow the misuse of democracy to destroy the state, because the interests of the people of Kuwait, which are above all.”

In April, Kuwait held national elections for the fourth time in as many years trying to break out of the longstanding political gridlock.

Domestic political disputes have been gripping Kuwait for years, including over changes to the welfare system,, and the impasse has prevented the sheikhdom from taking on debt. That has left it with little in its coffers to pay bloated public sector salaries despite generating immense wealth from its oil reserves.

Kuwait, a nation with some 4.2 million people that is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey, has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves.

It has been a staunch U.S. ally since the 1991 Gulf War expelled occupying Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein. Kuwait hosts some 13,500 American military personnel as well as the forward headquarters of the U.S. Army in the Middle East.

Kuwait is alone among Gulf Arab countries in having a democratically elected parliament that exerts some checks on the ruling family, which nevertheless appoints the government and can dissolve the assembly at will.