Last updated: 15 October, 2012

Kuwaiti police clash with protesters, 4 wounded

At least four people were wounded and six arrested Monday as Kuwaiti riot police clashed with opposition supporters who were protesting a government attempt to change the election law.

Police used batons to beat up young protesters who wanted to stage a procession following a rally in Kuwait City attended by around 5,000 people.

Kuwait authorities allow gatherings but prevent protesters from marching in the streets because the law bars processions. It was the first clash between police and Kuwaiti protesters in about a year.

During the rally, former MP and prominent opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak threatened that violence by authorities will be countered by the people.

“We are not scared of your new batons nor the jails you have built … violence will only lead to counter-violence,” he warned.

The former lawmaker broke decades-old taboos in Kuwait by addressing the ruler directly in public and warning that the “Kuwaiti people will not allow the country to be governed through an autocratic rule.”

The opposition has been protesting what it claimed was a plan to amend the controversial electoral law, confirmed by the court three weeks ago, to impact the outcome of polls and threatened to boycott the election.

Barrak charged that the government aims at influencing the results of the forthcoming election to be held in 60 days to “produce a rubber-stamp parliament.”

The rally was held after the opposition on Sunday rejected an appeal by two advisors to the ruler to postpone it until after the first two-day Asia Cooperation Dialogue summit due to start in Kuwait City on Tuesday.

A number of Bedouin tribes’ chiefs also warned they would urge their tribesmen to boycott the election if the law was altered.

Kuwait is scheduled to go to the polls for the second time this year and a fifth since mid-2006 after Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah dissolved parliament last week.

The opposition had also warned that amending the law could further destabilise the oil-rich Gulf state and undermine relations with the Al-Sabah ruling family.

The Al-Sabahs have ruled the oil-rich emirate unchallenged for more than 250 years. The emir, crown prince, prime minister and key cabinet ministers are all from the ruling family.

The Gulf state has been rocked by a series of political crises since 2006 during which the government resigned nine times and parliament was dissolved on six occasions, five of them by the emir and one by court.