KUWAIT CITY – Kuwait's ruler reappointed the nation's former prime minister Thursday just days after his resignation, a step toward formation of a new government that could at least temporary sideline opposition Islamists.
The official Kuwait News Agency said the decree by the emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, also calls for reinstated Prime Minister Sheik Jaber Al Hamad Al Sabah to designate members of his Cabinet.
The move suggests the U.S.-allied country's emir is eager to quickly break a political stalemate that has pitted the ruling dynasty against Islamists and other opposition lawmakers.
Members of the ruling Al Sabah family have historically controlled top government positions. That is not expected to change with the naming of a new government, and the emir's control of the country for now appears solid, despite months of political upheaval.
The emir accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his Cabinet on Sunday. That move was seen as a procedural formality after a court ruled June 20 that parliamentary elections held in February were unconstitutional.
The court's ruling called for reinstating the previous legislature, elected in 2009. Those lawmakers are seen as more liberal and supportive of the government than the parliament elected in February, which was dominated by hard-line Islamists and their conservative tribal allies.
A new government designated by Sheik Jaber, the reinstated prime minister, is expected to be sworn in by the restored parliament.
Though the 2009 parliament might remain in office, political observers expect the government to call for fresh elections in the coming months.
"When the Cabinet forms, it will submit a letter of no-cooperation to the emir, which is customary in order to set the stage for a new election to be held," predicted Bader Al-Mutairi, a political analyst and law professor in Kuwait University's law school.
Kuwait has the Gulf's most politically independent parliament. It often demands to question top officials and has the ability to pass no-confidence votes to oust Cabinet officials.
The country is OPEC's fourth-largest oil exporter, but its economy is more sluggish than that of its Gulf Arab neighbors. Political battles between the government and parliament have diverted attention from economic development proposals and other issues, including simmering labor unrest.
"A continuation of the current political turmoil will put the brakes on both investment and economic reforms over the next two year or so," Said Hirsh, a Middle East economist with Capital Economics in London, said in a report Thursday.
As a result, he expects Kuwait's economy to grow by an average of 3 percent over the next three years, half the rate of the past decade.
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.