The extraordinary move occurred amid growing concern over who should lead the oil-rich city-state after the death of Emir Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah last Sunday.
The crown prince, Sheik Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah , believed to be 76, immediately became emir under the Kuwaiti constitution. He has insisted that the parliament call a special session to allow him to take the oath of office.
But members of the cabinet say his poor health will keep him from governing properly. Recently, he has appeared in public in a wheelchair and has not spoken, raising speculation about whether he would even be able to recite the oath of office.
The cabinet is moving to transfer power to the prime minister, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, also thought to be 76. Sheik Sabah, who is the late emir's half brother, is in good health and has run the day-to-day affairs of the government for years.