By Eman Goma
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's cabinet resigned as expected on Thursday to avoid a grilling by parliament of three ministers, all members of the ruling al-Sabah family, amid calls for political and economic reform.
Lawmakers had asked to question the ministers in the latest of a series of challenges by an unusually assertive Arab parliament that have delayed important economic reforms.
"The ministers submitted the resignation to the prime minister, who will refer it to the emir," a parliamentary source told Reuters. The KUNA state news agency also quoted Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Roudhan Abdulaziz Al-Raudan as saying the government had Wresigned.
Kuwait's parliament, the most outspoken in a Gulf region mostly dominated by autocratic rulers, has triggered numerous cabinet resignations or reshuffles through questionings.
While grilling ministers is an everyday occurrence in most parliaments in the world, in Kuwait it is more akin to a direct challenge to the individual and an indirect challenge to the ruler, who has the last say in politics.
Several hundred Kuwaitis demonstrated earlier this month calling for a new prime minister and political freedoms, but the world's fourth largest oil exporter has not experienced anything on the scale of the unrest in nearby Bahrain.
But sources said on Wednesday they expected the Gulf state's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to reappoint Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah -- who is also the ruler's nephew -- to form another cabinet.
Sheikh Nasser survived a parliamentary challenge in January after being questioned about possible violations of the constitution and public freedom.
Sheikh Nasser is the first Kuwaiti prime minister to agree to be questioned. Previously this would have been taboo as the premier was traditionally also the heir apparent, until the emir separated the two positions in 2006. Kuwait's emir has in the past dissolved parliament to prevent questioning of the premier.
Sheikh Nasser survived a similar motion against him last year.
Political analyst and former oil minister Ali al Baghli said the government had no choice but to resign "after it was faced by numerous questioning requests."
Asked if Sheikh Nasser would be reappointed, he said: "It's all up to the emir, and we respect and trust his choice, whether it's going to be Sheikh Nasser or someone else."
(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)