Kuwait sets parliamentary by-elections date

The government is signaling it wants to push ahead with the current parliament

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Kuwait will hold parliamentary by-elections on June 26 to replace five lawmakers who quit over a row about questioning the Gulf state's prime minister in parliament, a senior government official said late on Sunday.

Some Kuwaiti media have said the resignations of the five in April and May could lead to the dissolution of the 50-member assembly. By setting a date for by-elections, the government is signaling it wants to push ahead with the current parliament.

In recent years, the Gulf state's parliaments have been repeatedly dissolved over procedural disputes or for challenging the government, in which members of the ruling family hold top posts. Requests to question ministers have sometimes led to dissolutions because the ministers want to avoid such grillings or votes of no confidence.

Three of the MPs - Riyad al-Adsani, Abdulkareem al-Kandari, Hussein Quaiqaan - resigned on April 30 after parliament voted to cancel their interrogation of Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah over issues such as housing and corruption.

They were joined on May 4 by former parliamentary speaker Ali al-Rashed and Safa al-Hashem, the only female MP in the National Assembly.

The five do not represent a unified bloc in Kuwait, where political parties are banned. Kuwait's parliament is the most powerful in the Gulf Arab region but policy is determined by the government, which said Sheikh Jaber, a senior ruling family member, was not responsible for the issues MPs wanted to question him about.

By-elections to replace the five will be held on June 26, Sheikh Mohammad al-Mubarak al-Sabah, Kuwait's minister for cabinet affairs said according to a cabinet statement published on state news agency KUNA.

Disputes between the Gulf state's 50-member elected parliament and hand-picked government have held up investment and reforms. The major oil producer's assembly has been dissolved on an almost yearly basis since 2006.

Most lawmakers in the current parliament are supportive of the government but resignations are still unsettling for the cabinet which wants to push through legislation and reforms.