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Middle East

Thousands protest in Kuwait City

Demonstrators call for parliament to be dissolved after poll boycotted by the opposition.
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2012 02:24
The opposition says changes to the electoral law enables the government to control the outcome of polls [Reuters]

Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis have staged a peaceful protest against the parliament elected last week under voting rules deemed unfair by the opposition.

The opposition supporters demonstrated for the second week in a row as police watched the protest without interfering on Saturday.

"This parliament is illegitimate, this [electoral law] amendment is illegal," chanted the protesters, as they marched in Kuwait City, heading for Kuwait Towers, a major landmark by the Gulf.

Rule changes passed by an emergency decree in October, which reduced the number of votes per citizen to one from four, have prompted a spate of mass demonstrations and led the opposition to boycott the December 1 election.

The opposition says the amendments of the electoral law enables the government to control the outcome of polls.

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 the AFP news agency.

Violent protests

Crowds of men, women and children wore orange, the colour of the protest movement. Some 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.

All the 50 seats in the legislature were won by pro-government candidates after the opposition boycotted the poll.

Ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah has said his amendments will help preserve national security and stability.

Under the old system, politicians could urge supporters to cast additional ballots for like-minded candidates - a way to
build informal alliances in a country where parties are banned.

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.

The Gulf state has been rocked by a series of political disputes since mid-2006 between parliamentarians and the government.

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