KUWAIT CITY (AP) – Kuwait’s ruler dissolved parliament by royal decree Sunday over unspecified security concerns as low oil prices squeeze government coffers, setting the stage for early elections in the tiny, oil-rich country.
Parliaments typically don’t serve out their full terms in the stalwart U.S. ally, but lawmakers elected in Kuwait’s last election in 2013 largely sided with the government as they served in the wake of Arab Spring protests.
But the rise of the Islamic State group and the drop in global oil prices has caused growing concerns in this major OPEC member.
Kuwait’s state-run television station and its news agency announced the parliament dissolving on Sunday afternoon, just a few hours after government officials held an emergency meeting. The Cabinet was expected to resign, as those sitting on the 12-member board also likely will be contesting their parliamentary seats. A caretaker government was expected to be announced in the coming hours.
In his decree, Kuwait’s ruling emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah said “regional circumstances” and “security challenges” required dissolving parliament.
This “necessitates resorting to the people, the source of authority, to choose their representatives who express their aspirations … in facing these challenges,” Sheikh Sabah’s decree read.
Kuwait has faced the threat of militant attacks since the rise of the Islamic State group. An Islamic State-claimed suicide bombing in 2015 targeting a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City killed 27 people and wounded scores. On Oct. 8, an Egyptian driving a garbage truck loaded with explosives and Islamic State papers rammed into a truck carrying five U.S. soldiers in Kuwait, wounding only himself in the attack.
Earlier Kuwaiti news reports speculating about the government dissolving focused entirely on economic issues. The price of oil has been halved from heights of over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014. Government-subsidized gasoline prices have been raised and other benefits have been cut, leading to growing dissent.
Some Islamist and other opposition groups boycotted the last elections for Kuwait’s 50-member legislative body, held three years ago. Ahead of that vote, a variety of groups inspired by the Arab Spring stepped up pressure on the ruling Al Sabah family, led by the 87-year-old emir, over alleged fiscal mismanagement, corruption and efforts to police social media.