KUWAIT CITY: Thousands of Kuwaitis demonstrated on Saturday to demand dissolving the new parliament elected last week despite a massive boycott as the oil-rich Gulf state plunged into political stalemate.
“This parliament is illegitimate, this (electoral law) amendment is illegal,” chanted the protesters, who included a large number of women and children, as they marched on the key seaside Arabian Gulf Road. The opposition supporters demonstrated for the second week in a row attracting large numbers of people as police watched the protest without interfering after the organisers obtained a licence.
The demonstrators who held orange colour and national flags also raised banners reading “no to violence, enough arrests,” in reference to violent clashes between police and protesters over the past several days.
Violent confrontations broke out between riot police and youth activists who staged protests every night since Monday to express their rejection to the election. Dozens of protesters were arrested. Police excessively used teargas and stun grenades while battling the activists in several residential areas heavily populated by Bedouin tribes who are estimated to make up over 55 per cent of the 1.2 million Kuwaiti citizens.
“The struggle will escalate and I am afraid that we may have casualties unless (government) wisdom prevails,” former Islamist MP Jamaan al-Harbash told AFP as he took part in the protest. “There will be no negotiations,” with the government before “it repeals the electoral law amendment and scraps this dwarf parliament ... which represents a minority of Kuwaitis who formed an alliance with the regime.”
Last week’s snap polls were boycotted by the opposition and all the 50 seats were won by pro-government candidates, including a record 17 seats by the Shiite minority.
Fawaz al-Enezi, one of the youth organisers of the protest, said the “people are demonstrating to regain their hijacked constitutional rights.”
“We demand scrapping the new parliament, the law amendment, reforming the judiciary and writing a new constitution,” Enezi told AFP. The Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition boycotted the polls in protest against the amendment of the electoral law which the opposition says it enables the government to control the outcome of polls.
The country’s major tribes were the main losers in the election because the boycott to voting was the highest in tribal districts.
Head of the National Election Commission Ahmad al-Ajeel said Monday that voter turnout was 39.7 per cent while the opposition claimed it was only 26.7 per cent.
Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah on Wednesday reappointed Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah as premier after the cabinet resigned in a routine step required after the election. The emir also invited the new parliament to hold its inaugural session on December 16 which means a rejection to calls by the opposition to dissolve the house.
Former MPs have filed two petitions to the constitutional court challenging that the amendment to the electoral law breached the constitution. If the court accepts the motions, it could order parliament dissolution.