Middle East

Kuwait braces for huge protest against vote change

Kuwaiti opposition supporters gather outside the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City to protest against the emir's desision to amend the electoral law on October 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait braced Sunday for what organisers said would be a huge rally in the face of beefed up security to protest a decision by the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state to amend the electoral law.

Organisers said it would be "the biggest procession in the history of Kuwait" and advised people to remain peaceful after a stern warning by authorities to prevent any "illegal" demonstration.

Three main points in the capital Kuwait City have been allocated for demonstrators to assemble and simultaneously march on the nearby Seif Palace which houses offices for the emir, crown prince and prime minister.

The interior ministry cautioned that processions are illegal in Kuwait and that protesters can only gather in a square opposite the parliament building, warning it would deal harshly with violators.

Security in Kuwait City was beefed up as hundreds of unarmed policemen and dozens of police patrols were deployed, especially around the assembly points.

Police also cordoned off empty areas along the demonstration routes in an apparent bid to limit protester numbers by restricting parking, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protest was called by the Islamist and nationalist-led opposition in protest at a decision by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to amend the electoral law despite it having been confirmed by a court last month.

The emir met on Sunday with bedouin tribal chiefs in the emirate and the official KUNA news agency cited many of them expressing support for Sheikh Sabah, although tribal areas make up the backbone of the opposition.

The opposition, which has decided to boycott polls called for December 1, said amending the electoral law amounted to a coup against the constitution and was aimed at manipulating the outcome to create a rubber-stamp parliament.

In the latest clampdown on opposition leaders and activists, the public prosecution has issued an arrest warrant for a member of the scrapped 2012 parliament, Osama al-Munawer.

Munawer joins three former opposition MPs who have been in detention since Thursday. The prosecution on Sunday extended their detention for 10 more days, according to Al-Humaidi al-Subaie, one of their defence lawyers.

Four opposition activists arrested on Monday after clashes with riot police were also being detained.

Political tension has strongly impacted the Kuwait Stock Exchange which shed 3.05 percent at the start of the business week on Sunday, the biggest single day loss in over three years.

The wrangling in the OPEC member has stalled development despite abundant oil-driven surpluses of over $400 billion.





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