KUWAIT CITY - Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree on Monday to suspend parliament for one month in an apparent bid to defuse tensions between the government and MPs.
The decision was based on an article in the constitution that allows the ruler to suspend parliamentary proceedings for a maximum of a month, said an official statement cited by state media.
Earlier on Monday, the cabinet approved a draft decree recommending to the emir that he enforce the suspension, which is effective from Monday. The decision was taken because of the "need to prepare the political scene to achieve the desired cooperation between the executive power and the legislature," said a cabinet statement.
Tensions have increased between the opposition-controlled parliament, elected just over four months ago, and the government controlled by the ruling Al-Sabah family. Opposition MPs have repeatedly accused some government members of wide-ranging irregularities, forcing two cabinet ministers to quit since the opposition scored an impressive victory in February snap polls.
Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali resigned last month following a marathon grilling in parliament by opposition lawmakers who accused him of squandering public funds and committing irregularities.
And minister of social affairs and labour Ahmad al-Rujaib quit last week after MPs filed to quiz him over allegations of irregularities.
Opposition MPs acknowledged the emir's constitutional right to take the decision, but warned of attempts by certain quarters to push for dissolving the parliament. Only the emir has the right to dissolve parliament.
Prominent opposition MP Mussallam al-Barrak said suspending parliament in this way is an "absolute right of the emir."
He said the suspension has got nothing to do with MPs, but it appears that "the (reshuffle) of the cabinet is going through a crisis."
"There are influential sides pushing for dissolving parliament and I tell them that their problem is not with parliament but with the people who elected the MPs," opposition Islamist lawmaker Jamaan al-Harbash said.
Opposition MP Bader al-Dahum also spoke of an attempt to dissolve parliament, and warned that "the opposition will mobilise its supporters" on the streets.
Unprecedented youth-led street protests last year forced prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to stand down in November. Parliament was dissolved a week later and snap polls took place on February 2.
Pro-government MP Nabeel al-Fadl said the suspension was taken because the "opposition has continuously blackmailed the government... and hijacked parliament."
The emirate has been rocked by a series of political crises since 2006 during which eight governments resigned and parliament was dissolved four times.