Kuwait warns against unlicensed protest planned for Sunday

Sat Nov 3, 2012 4:45pm EDT
 

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait said on Saturday it had not issued a permit to allow a planned protest against new voting rules and the prime minister warned police would use force if the nation was under threat.

Kuwait outlawed unauthorized gatherings of more than 20 people last month after an opposition-led demonstration by thousands ended in clashes between protesters and police in which at least 30 people were taken to hospital.

Although OPEC member and U.S. ally Kuwait has avoided the kind of mass pro-democracy unrest seen in other Arab countries, tensions have mounted between the elected parliament and the government, dominated by the Al-Sabah ruling family.

Demonstrations about local issues often occur in the major oil producer, but violence has previously been very rare.

Security forces used tear gas and smoke bombs at protests last month, witnesses said. Protesters, which include opposition politicians, youth groups and their followers plan a protest march on Sunday in central Kuwait.

Kuwaitis have been protesting changes to an electoral law, announced last month by ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

Some opposition politicians have said the changes are an attempt to give pro-government candidates an advantage in the parliamentary election on December 1. The government says the amendments were needed to preserve national unity.

"The state does not ... want to use violence, but when the security of the homeland is endangered and the safety of its citizens at risk, it will not hesitate to use force in the framework of the law and the constitution," state news agency KUNA quoted Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah as saying.

Opposition politicians have said they will boycott parliamentary elections next month, the second time Kuwait goes to the polls in 2012.   Continued...