Security clampdown in Kuwait as opposition calls poll boycott
An opposition demonstration against amendments to Kuwaiti electoral law was dispersed by security forces in Kuwait city on Sunday night, hours after the government issued a decree instituting harsh penalties for inciting "sectarian or tribal conflict", DPA reported
Demonstrators meeting at three gathering points were prevented from joining a planned protest march by security forces who fired sound and smoke grenades, independent newspaper Al-Qabas reported.
The Interior Ministry said groups of demonstrators had gathered despite its warnings that marches were banned by law. It said protesters had attacked security forces with stones.
A number of demonstrators had been arrested, the Ministry said in a statement reported by the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
The demonstration was called to protest an amendment published Saturday to the oil-rich Gulf emirate's electoral law ahead of elections planned for December 1.
The opposition also called for a boycott of the poll, which follows the dissolution of the parliament elected earlier this year in which it had held a majority.
A government decree issued Saturday changed the voting system for the elections, allowing citizens to vote for one candidate only rather than four as was provided for under a 2006 electoral reform law.
The new voting system was based on instructions from the emir and would address "faults ... leading to results contrary to justice and the correct representation of all sectors of Kuwaiti society in the parliament," Information Minister Muhammad Abdallah Husayn was quoted as saying in the Al-Rai newspaper.
Earlier on Sunday, Kuwait's government issued a new "national unity" law providing for stringent penalties for persons inciting "sectarian or tribal conflict."
The decree gives penalties of up to seven years imprisonment or a 10,000-dinar (35,600-dollar) fine for those promoting internal conflict or hatred against any social group, KUNA reported.
While Kuwait holds free parliamentary elections, effective power remains in the hands of the ruling al-Sabah family, with the country's government appointed directly by the emir.
The opposition, dominated by tribal and Islamist elements, has been calling for a move towards constitutional monarchy.