Thousands of Kuwaitis protest against voting changes

Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:32pm EST
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By Sylvia Westall

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis packed into a square opposite parliament on Sunday in a peaceful opposition-led rally against new voting rules.

Recent demonstrations against the electoral changes, ordered by Kuwait's ruler last month ahead of a poll on December 1, have led to clashes between protesters and police as marches spread out of the areas usually designated for rallies.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the 83-year-old emir whose family has ruled Kuwait for more than 250 years, has said the new rules are aimed at preserving national unity. He warned last week there will be no leniency for threats to national security.

Hundreds of Kuwaiti men wearing white traditional robes streamed into the square where opposition leaders gave speeches from a stage to protesters, many sitting on carpets drinking tea as others sang Kuwaiti songs.

Hundreds of women dressed in black traditional robes sat in a separate area of the audience. Helicopters circled overhead and police lined the streets around the square which were clogged with traffic.

"The government just wants a parliament that does everything they want," said computer security manager Abu Abdullah. "They are playing with our constitution."

Fatima al-Badah, an educational supervisor, said: "The decision (to change voting rules) came from the emir. It is more accurate if this issue is discussed in parliament. Under the new system it is easier to buy votes."

In a conscious echo of Arab Spring slogans used in other parts of the Arab world, some protesters chanted "The people want to bring down the decree (on voting)."   Continued...