Kuwait opposition calls mass protest for eve of vote

A defaced billboard for a candidate in the upcoming Kuwaiti parliamentary elections is seen at the side of a main road in Kuwait City on November 19, 2012 (AFP)

Kuwait City - 

The Kuwaiti opposition has announced it will stage a major demonstration on the eve of the December 1 parliamentary election as a finale to its nationwide campaign to urge a boycott of the disputed polls.

The Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition all say the poll boycott is in protest at the government's unilateral amendment of the electoral law, which it says breaches the constitution.

"We urge the Kuwaiti people to take part in the 'A Dignity of a Nation 3' procession on November 30," the organisers announced Monday night on their Twitter account.

"This procession will be the true manifestation of the will of the Kuwaiti people ... (and through which) we will announce to the world our rejection of these polls," said the organisers, who insisted the protest would be peaceful.

Demonstrations held since October 21 have drawn tens of thousands of people, often turning violent when riot police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protesters. Around 150 people and 24 policemen have been wounded in the protests.

The opposition claims the amendment to the electoral law allows the government to influence the outcome of the results and elect a rubber stamp parliament.

Under the previous law, Kuwaitis were able to vote for four of 10 MPs elected in each of the five constituencies, but that has now been reduced to only one.

The opposition claims that the reduction will encourage vote-buying and other corrupt practices since the number of votes needed to win a seat will be much lower than in previous polls.

It also claimed that under the new setup, it will be extremely difficult for the opposition to win a majority in the next parliament even though it enjoys a massive popular support.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah had said the amendment was within his constitutional rights and necessary to safeguard national unity and security of the oil-rich Gulf state.

The opposition has also stepped up a campaign to urge voters to shun the ballot by holding a large number of gatherings on almost daily basis and mobilised the so-called Popular Committee for Boycotting Election.

"The opposition believes that December 1 will be a day of defeat for the government and influential people ... there will be empty ballot boxes," declared opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak at a gathering Monday night.

"It is our right to stage processions," to object to the law, said Barrak. "Our actions are peaceful and we are against instigation and violence."

All opposition groups and figures have refused to register candidates for the polls, which process closed on Friday.

The election is the second this year and the fifth since mid-2006 as the emirate is rocked by ongoing political crises between parliament and the government led by the ruling Al-Sabah family.

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