* Lawmakers resign in protest at election annulment
* Parliamentarians had called for more cabinet posts
* Gulf oil exporter in political tangle, says analyst
By Mahmoud Harby
KUWAIT, June 21 More than half of Kuwait's
members of parliament have resigned in protest at a court's
decision to annul an election that had given the Islamist-led
opposition a majority.
The resignations deepen the political crisis in the major
oil exporter which has so far avoided the widespread dissent
that has ousted heads of state in some other Arab countries.
Wednesday's ruling effectively dissolved the parliament
elected in February and reinstated its predecessor, but the
resignations by many lawmakers who were in the previous
parliament deprives the 50-seat assembly of more than half its
members, making it difficult to function.
The number of resigning lawmakers had risen by Thursday to
at least 26, parliamentary sources said.
"It does us no honour to be part of the 2009 assembly which
was brought down by the nation," said Jamaan al-Harbish after
Wednesday's ruling, speaking on behalf of several lawmakers.
"We thus tender our resignations," he added.
Some parliamentarians and analysts compared Wednesday's
court ruling to Egypt's constitutional court's decision to annul
the Islamist-dominated parliament earlier this month.
The ruling came two days after the emir, Sheikh Sabah
al-Ahmad al-Sabah, suspended parliament in an escalating dispute
between the cabinet and lawmakers, a row which threatened to
stall economic planning in OPEC member which is a key U.S. ally.
At the heart of the standoff, analysts and lawmakers say,
was a demand to allocate up to nine cabinet seats to parliament
members and further boost their voting power on critical issues.
Kuwaiti media had previously said that opposition lawmakers
had been offered four posts out of a possible 16 chosen by the
"We're now in a tangle here," said Abdullah al-Shayji, head
of the political science department at Kuwait University.
"I think the best scenario in all this mess is to restore
the parliament as ordered by the constitutional court and then
go ahead and suspend it again and call for fresh elections."
Kuwait has a more powerful and active parliament than other
assemblies in the conservative Gulf Arab region. But the emir
appoints the prime minister and has the authority to dissolve
parliament and call new elections.
Some investors had hoped that Wednesday's ruling would end
the political deadlock between government and parliament that
delayed much-needed economic reforms and held up vital
Two ministers, including the veteran finance minister, were
forced to resign in less than a month after pressure by
opposition lawmakers and parliament was threatening to question
several more ministers, grillings that may have ended in
confidence votes that could have forced them from office.
Political analyst Shayji said the previous parliament -
which the court ruling reinstated - did not have the support of
the majority of Kuwaitis, who used February's election to throw
out lawmakers tainted by corruption allegations.
"So if the (reinstated) parliament continues and finishes
its term - which is another two years - then I think this will
touch off major repercussions and the consequences would be
extremely dangerous," Shayji said.
"But if the emir goes ahead and restores the parliament and
then ... dismisses it and calls for snap election, I think that
would cool down a lot of frustrations and anger that today will
sweep Kuwait," he added.
Kuwait's oil wealth and a generous welfare state had helped
it avoid the "Arab Spring" protests seen elsewhere in the
region. But sporadic protests have taken place in recent months,
including one incident late last year when youths led by some
lawmakers forced their way into parliament.
(Additional reporting by Isabel Coles; Writing by Sami Aboudi;
Editing by Robin Pomeroy)