November 17, 2011 / 12:33 PM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX-Key facts about Kuwait's political system

Nov 17 (Reuters) - Kuwait’s emir ordered no tolerance be shown for any violation of state institutions, a lawmaker said on Thursday, a day after protesters stormed parliament to press for the resignation of the prime minister for alleged corruption.

The protest followed a long-running political standoff between parliament and the government that has pushed Kuwait from one political crisis to the next and delayed key economic reforms and projects.

Following are some key facts about the Gulf Arab state’s political system:

* Kuwait gained independence from Britain in 1961 and set up the first elected parliament in the Gulf Arab region in 1963.

* Kuwait has a 50-seat parliament with a history of challenging the government, unusual for a region dominated by ruling families. Deputies have to approve the state budget and all major laws. They often exercise their right to question ministers, sometimes prompting them to resign under pressure.

* In the last election in 1999, Sunni Islamists lost some ground while Shi’ites and liberals made small gains, but analysts said the changes were not enough to end the political deadlock.

* Kuwait has escaped the mass protests that toppled long-time Arab rulers, thanks to a generous welfare system. But opposition has built up against Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, an influential member of the ruling family.

* In May, two lawmakers attempted to question Sheikh Nasser over alleged misuse of public funds, a charge he denies. The request came days after he had unveiled his seventh cabinet. The previous cabinet quit in March to avoid parliamentary questioning of three ministers.

* Kuwait’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has the last say in all state matters. He can dissolve the assembly and appoint new governments. Key cabinet portfolios such as defence, foreign affairs and oil are held by members of the ruling Sabah family none of whom have ever held a parliament seat, except as ministers.

* The emir or his predecessors have dissolved parliament six times since its establishment; in 2009, 2008, 2006, 1999, 1986 and 1976. According to Kuwaiti law, elections must be held within 60 days of the assembly being dissolved, but rulers have ignored this rule before, suspending the assembly for five years from 1976 and six years from 1986.

* Kuwait does not allow political parties but tolerates informal political groups. These include the hardline Islamist Salafist movement, the liberal Democratic Forum bloc, the Shi’ite Muslim-led National Islamic Coalition, the Islamist Ummah Party and Kuwait’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Constitutional Movement and the liberal Popular Bloc.

* Parliament passed a law in 2005 giving women the right to vote and run in elections for parliament. Four women were elected in the last vote in 2009.

* The current emir is the 15th ruler of a dynasty which has ruled for some 250 years since part of the Anaiza tribe, to which the al-Sabah belonged, migrated from the Arabian Peninsula hinterland.

* Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in neighbouring Iraq in 2003 and U.S. calls for change in the Middle East, the ruling family has come under intense pressure from both Islamists and pro-Western liberals to loosen its grip and share power.

* In 2003, the emir issued a landmark decree separating the post of prime minister from the crown prince for the first time since Kuwait’s independence.

* Kuwait passed a new election law in 2006 cutting the number of constituencies from 25 to five in hopes that it would increase competition and reduce vote-buying that has long marred polls in the Gulf Arab country.

* Changes of the oil minister usually do not have an impact on the energy policy of the OPEC producer, which is usually among the top six world crude exporters. (Compiled by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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