Kuwait opposition demands end to corruption

Thousands take to the streets of Kuwait City to demand end to corrupt transactions involving government officials.

Protesters came out in response to a call from veteran opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack [AP]

Thousands of anti-government protesters have rallied in Kuwait, demanding an end to alleged multi-million dollar corrupt transactions which they say involve government officials.

The protesters came out in response to a call made by veteran opposition leader Musallam al-Barrack, who vowed to reveal the names of officials he accused of complicity in bribery.

“Bribery has penetrated all of the state’s institutions and authorities, and people filling sensitive posts have received bribes worth multi-million dinars,” al-Barrak, who is a former parliamentarian, told the crowd on Tuesday.

The oil-rich state, which stands out in the region for being tolerant towards dissent, has fallen economically behind its Gulf neighbours due to years of political bickering between the government and opposition, delays of crucial projects and thwarted infrastructure developments.

Since 2006, at least a dozen cabinets have been formed and six parliaments elected.

“We’ve had enough of this. It is time to fight corruption. The battle against corruption starts now, right after this rally. We will not allow corrupt people to continue robbing the country,” al-Barrack said.

“The opposition will not find peace until it puts its hand on all threads of this conspiracy.”

The US-ally is still reeling from a contentious audio tape purportedly implicating former senior officials in plotting against the regime and its head, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah.

The prosecutor has ordered a total media blackout as a probe takes place into the case that has prompted a closed-door parliamentary debate.

While several legislatures, including the speaker, believe the recording is not authentic and has been tampered with, many believe it is credible.

Bigger demands

The tape has brought the opposition to the forefront once again after almost a year of calm. In 2011, large demonstrations resulted in the replacement of the then-premier who had withstood parliamentary interrogations, mounting pressures by the opposition and numerous cabinet resignations since he was first appointed six years earlier.

The opposition has also forced several ministers from the cabinet, in which members of the ruling family have held key positions. Empowered by their spoils, the opposition is now demanding that prime ministers be elected. Kuwait’s prime ministers are ruling family members appointed by the emir.

In March, an umbrella group called the Opposition Coalition was formed, bringing together all opposition parties. Among the coalition’s goals was a full parliamentary system based on legalised political parties.

“The opposition has learned its lessons, having spent most of the past year in the shadows making sure that its many strands and factions have been able to establish a unified stance, demanding democracy and an end to elite corruption,” Professor Christopher Davidson, a specialist in Gulf affairs at Durham University in the UK, told Al Jazeera.

“This explains why we now have an incredibly diverse array of political groups now under the same banner, with the same message, and they are likely to be successful, sooner or later,” Davidson said.

Source: Al Jazeera