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Kuwait army on stand-by for opposition rally

Government warns it will take all means necessary to stop illegal processions

Image Credit: AFP
Protesters run for cover as Kuwait riot police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse thousands of angry demonstratorswho marched on the central prison where a leading opposition figure is detained, in Kuwait City on October 31, 2012.
Gulf News

Kuwait City: Kuwait may call in the army to help security forces stop a march called by the opposition for Sunday after the government vowed to use force if necessary to maintain public order, the Al Anbaa newspaper reported.

The move came after security forces used tear gas to disperse a demonstration by thousands of protesters on Wednesday, injuring more than 30 and drawing condemnation from international human rights watchdogs.

“The Interior Ministry will use all means necessary to prevent illegal processions,” Al Anbaa quoted a security source as saying on Saturday.

“The army and national guard may be called in if needed to deal with any breach of public order,” the source added.

The opposition has called the march in Kuwait City to protest against an amendment to the electoral law ordered by Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah last month ahead of a snap December 1 parliamentary election.

Almost all opposition groups have said they will boycott the election in protest at what they see as an attempt to create a puppet legislature.

The opposition, made up of Islamists, nationalists and liberals, won a February general election but the constitutional court quashed the vote in June and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament.

Kuwait introduced parliamentary elections as long back as 1962, but the ruling Al Sabah family continues to hold all key cabinet posts.

The opposition has been campaigning for a constitutional monarchy and has called for an elected government and the legalisation of political parties, which remain formally banned.

Opposition leaders insist they have no desire to undermine the ruling family and, late on Friday, pledged their loyalty to the emir while renewing their demand for the electoral law amendment to be revoked.

Wednesday’s demonstration was called to protest against the detention of opposition leader Mussallam Al Barrak on charges of undermining the authority of the emir. Al Barrak was released on bail the following day.

It was the second time in 10 days that security forces dispersed an opposition rally. On October 21, dozens of protesters were injured as police attempted to break up a demonstration that the opposition said was the largest in Kuwait’s history with thousands of people taking part.

Amnesty International called on the Kuwaiti authorities on Thursday to respect the right to demonstrate. “The Kuwaiti authorities must ensure the people of Kuwait are free to peacefully express their opinions, including about the electoral law, the elections and the emir,” the human rights watchdog said.