Kuwait: Kuwaiti opposition groups, which are boycotting next month’s parliamentary elections, were gathering on Sunday for another protest against voting changes as tension prevails ahead of the polls on December 1.
Protesters were gathering at Irada Square in front of parliament in Kuwait City to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s constitution. Reports quoting the organising committee said tens of thousands were expected to join the sit-in.
Protesters and riot police have clashed at previous rallies against government-imposed amendments to the election law.
“Citizens are entitled to demonstrate in the square next to parliament or by application to the district governor,” the Ministry of Information’s International Press Office said on Sunday. “Those that wish to protest have the right to do so, but they have to be aware of both their rights and responsibilities under the law.”
Protest marches are illegal in Kuwait without prior approval.
Kuwaiti Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah on Saturday renounced “sedition” and told citizens that casting their ballots is a national duty.
Several veteran politicians “known for being correlated with the Constitution” are invited to attend the gathering, said the sources who spoke anonymously to a local daily. “Speeches during the rally are set to focus on violations the constitution has been subjected to during the past five decades and won’t address political conflicts or the elections,” a local daily quoting sources said.
Despite the opposition’s vehement calls for boycotting the upcoming polls, a total of 387 candidates registered for the upcoming elections at the end of the final day of registration.
Kuwaitis go to the polls on December 1, the second election in less than a year, to choose a new 50-member National Assembly. The voting change reduces the number of candidates each citizen can elect to one from four, which the opposition claims is an attempt to weaken its chances and make it easier for corrupt candidates to buy votes.
The Information Ministry said that a report by Human Rights Watch on Kuwaiti protests is “skewed” and “heavily misrepresents the democratic right to protest in our state.”
The New York-based group said on Sunday that Kuwaiti authorities should lift the ban on what it said was peaceful assembly and allow people to express their views.