Protest against to modify the voting mechanism in Kuwait (Via reuters)
Thanks SHEILA for reporting.
Police in Kuwait using teargas and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators as thousands marched in a protest against changes to the electoral law which the opposition has called a constitutional coup by the government.
Demonstrators had gathered in various parts of the capital, Kuwait City, to march towards the government’s headquarters. Riot police surrounded some groups, gave them a few minutes to disperse, and then used teargas and stun grenades against them, witnesses said. Several people were injured.
Protesters later regrouped to form a larger crowd – estimated at more than 20,000 people – which gathered at a road near Kuwait Towers, a seaside landmark in the Gulf Arab state.
The authorities had previously promised to “decisively confront” protesters to prevent the demonstration.
The opposition decided to take to the streets after the government – which is dominated by the ruling Al-Sabah family – announced last week it was calling elections for December 1 and would change the electoral law “to preserve national unity”.
The announcement was the latest move in an intensifying power struggle between the ruling establishment and parliament that has seen eight governments come and go since the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, came to power in 2006.
Kuwait’s 83-year-old emir dissolved parliament on October 7. It was the sixth time the oil-rich state and key U.S. ally had disbanded its legislature since early 2006.
Kuwait’s oil wealth and a generous welfare state have so far helped it avoid the kind of “Arab Spring” protests that forced out leaders elsewhere in the region. But the country has been convulsed by regular demonstrations since last year.
The opposition, including Islamists, liberals and tribal figures who won a majority in the 50-seat parliament in the last election in February, rejected the emir’s proposed changes and said they would boycott the vote.
The opposition has called the changes – which allow voters to choose only one candidate per electoral district – “a coup against the constitution”, saying the reform would prevent its candidates from winning the majority they won in the last vote.
Forging an electoral alliance, which depends on supporters of one candidate voting for another in exchange for reciprocal support, would become unfeasible under the new system, they say.
Sunday’s demonstration began from a number of locations in Kuwait City after Muslim evening prayers.
Security forces had deployed extra police in the capital and set up barricades around a square near the palace of justice, where the country’s courts are located.
Before it began, Dhari Al-Rujaib, a youth activist of the Progressive Current of Kuwait, said he was expecting up to 60,000 people to take part in a peaceful protest.