Tens of thousands of supporters of the Kuwaiti opposition rallied on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the constitution and to demand the repeal of a disputed electoral law.
The enthusiastic crowds chanted “The people want the repeal of the law,” ordered by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to change the voting system ahead of the December 1 parliamentary election, the second this year.
“The law aims at preventing Kuwaiti popular participation in governance… and to establish autocratic rule and exploit the country’s resources,” Islamist former MP Khaled al-Sultan told cheering protesters.
Under the previous law, Kuwaiti voters were able to pick up to four candidates, but that has now been reduced to only one.
The opposition claims the amendment allows the
government to influence the outcome of the results and elect a rubber stamp parliament.
“The amendment of the law is a breach of the constitution… Today, we are here defend our constitution,” former liberal MP Mishari al-Ossaimi said.
Kuwait became the first Arab state in the Gulf to issue a constitution in November 1962.
Organisers estimated the gathering at around 200,000 people, which would be the largest rally in Kuwait’s history, but onlookers said the number was around 50,000.
Unlike previous three demonstrations which turned violent, Sunday’s gathering remained peaceful as it was held at the Erada (Will) Square opposite parliament building in Kuwait City, as the interior ministry had demanded.
More than 150 protesters and 24 police were slightly injured at three demonstrations staged since October 21.
Speakers also called on Kuwaiti voters to boycott the election in order to foil “government plots” against the constitution.
All opposition groups and figures totally boycotted the registration of candidates for the polls which closed on Friday.
The opposition has also started a campaign to urge people to shun the ballot and plans further protests after the election.
The upcoming election is the second this year and the fifth since mid-2006 as the oil-rich Gulf state has been rocked by ongoing political crises between parliament and the government led by the ruling Al-Sabah family.