Kuwait opposition to stage joint demonstration Sunday

Wed Nov 7, 2012 12:13pm EST
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By Sylvia Westall

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti opposition groups plan to stage a joint demonstration on Sunday against new voting rules as a standoff with the government intensifies ahead of an election on December 1.

While opposition groups say the rules are a bid to skew the election, the government, so far spared the mass uprising seen in Arab Spring movements elsewhere, has made clear its determination to stop street protests spilling over into unrest.

Former opposition lawmaker Waleed al-Tabtabie tweeted that opposition groups planned a "large rally" on November 11 to mark the 50th anniversary of the constitution.

He said it will take place in Erada Square, a designated protest area opposite parliament.

While most of the frequent recent protests on the square have been peaceful, some have spread to surrounding streets and to other areas in Kuwait where protests are considered illegal, and resulted in clashes. In recent protests police have used tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse thousands of demonstrators.

Although Kuwait, an OPEC member state and ally of the United States, tolerates more dissent than most other Gulf states, in recent weeks it has begun to emphasize the limits of its tolerance.

On Tuesday the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said there would be no leniency for threats to "the security of the homeland". He has said the changes to voting rules are constitutional and needed to preserve national unity.

On Wednesday, General Prosecutor Dharar al-Asousi was quoted as stressing to prosecutors that they must enforce a new law that expands broad rules banning incitement to strife and the spreading of false rumors.   Continued...

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