Kuwaiti security forces teargas opposition-led protest

Sun Nov 4, 2012 3:23pm EST
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By Sylvia Westall and Ahmed Hagagy

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti security forces fired tear gas to disperse an unauthorized demonstration on Sunday by thousands of opposition supporters against new voting rules for parliamentary elections on December 1.

OPEC member and U.S. ally Kuwait has so far avoided the mass pro-democracy unrest that has toppled rulers in four other Arab countries since last year, but tension has mounted this year in a long-running power struggle between parliament and the government which is dominated by the ruling Al-Sabah family.

Next month's elections will be the second in Kuwait this year after an opposition bloc of Islamists, liberals and tribal leaders won a majority in polls in February.

That parliament was effectively dissolved by a court ruling in June that reinstated a more pro-government assembly, but the old legislature was unable to meet due to a boycott by lawmakers leading to another dissolution and a call by the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, for snap elections to end the deadlock.

The emir then announced changes to the electoral law last month which some opposition politicians say are an attempt to give pro-government candidates an advantage in the polls.

Opposition leaders have said they will boycott the elections and have called for demonstrations.

Hundreds of police lined the route in central Kuwait City hours before the planned march on Sunday, raising fears of a repeat of clashes last month between police and thousands of demonstrators that ended with at least 30 people hospitalized.


Kuwaiti protesters hold up signs reading, "New government, elected government" during an impromptu protest that was dispersed by tear gas in Sabah al Salem districts November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Stephanie Mcgehee