Kuwait's ruler blocks MPs' Islamic law proposal

KUWAIT Thu May 17, 2012 11:23am BST

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KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's ruler has blocked a proposal by 31 of the 50 elected members of parliament to amend the constitution to make all legislation in the Gulf Arab state comply with Islamic law, an MP said on Thursday.

The approval of Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Saba, is needed for any constitutional change.

"His highness the emir is not in favour," said Mohammad al-Dallal, an Islamist MP and legal expert. The proposal was put forward by the Islamic Justice Bloc and signed by 31 lawmakers, he said.

Political parties are banned in Kuwait so MPs have to rely on forming blocs in parliament. The 15-member cabinet selected by the prime minister can also vote in parliament.

"We must think again about convincing the emir or submitting it again in another format," Dallal said.

"Our society is a conservative society, a lot of people request that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law). We also do not have a stable political system," he said, adding such an amendment could help make lawmaking less chaotic.

Islamist MPs have proposed amending the constitution in this way several times in the past. This time, they asked to change article 79 to make sharia "the only source" of legislation rather than a major or main source as it is now.

Like elsewhere in the region, Islamists have made political gains in the major oil producer.

With many campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, Islamists increased their share of parliamentary seats in Kuwait after a snap election in February which ushered in its fourth parliament in six years.

Kuwait, a regional U.S. ally, is ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy and states Islam as its official religion. About 85 percent of Kuwait's population is thought to be Muslim. The next biggest groups are expatriate Hindus and Christians.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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