Kuwait’s long-time parliament speaker bows out of September elections

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Kuwait’s parliament speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim said he would not run in legislative polls this month, handing a victory to opposition figures who had been critical of him in a domestic political standoff that has hindered fiscal reform.

Kuwait holds early elections on September 29 after the crown prince appointed a new prime minister and dissolved parliament in a bid to resolve the feud between the Gulf OPEC oil producing country’s government and assembly.

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Opposition lawmakers had pressed for a new prime minister and for Ghanim’s removal as speaker, a position he had held since 2013, accusing him of being pro-government.

Years of political infighting have stalled investment and reform in the country, which is one of the richest in the world per capita thanks to its oil wealth and small population.

Ghanim late on Tuesday announced he would not run in the elections based on “the circumstances and requirements of each phase” and that he planned “a stronger return” in the future.

Welcoming the news, former opposition MP Bader AlDahoom said on Twitter: “The departure of the two leaders (of the executive and legislative) is a popular demand that has been achieved.”

Kuwait, which bans political parties, has a more open political system in the Gulf, though the emir has the final say in state matters.

Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who took over most of the ruling emir’s duties, said when dissolving parliament last month that bickering undermined national unity.

He appointed the emir’s son as new prime minister in July after the previous government resigned ahead of a non-cooperation motion in parliament against the former premier.

Kuwait has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf countries, including the power to approve laws and question ministers.

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