Opposition raises stakes, threatens street protests – Ex-MPs warn of ‘Arab Spring’ if electoral law is changed
KUWAIT: The opposition warned yesterday that it will not allow any change to the controversial electoral constituency law to pass easily, vowing it will fight the change with street protests while some speakers threatened protests similar to those in “Arab Spring” countries. Speaking at a gathering in Jaber Al-Ali attended by some 2,000 people, former Islamist MP Falah Al-Sawwagh and other opposition speakers appealed to HH the Amir not to approve the amendment and issue it in an emergency Amiri decree.
It was the first of a series of meetings and rallies planned by the opposition in protest against what they claim to be a government plan to amend the voting system to ensure the election of a pro-government National Assembly in the general polls scheduled within two months. “Kuwait today has entered a phase of autocratic rule which does not believe in democratic and popular institutions … corruption forces have dominated over the government institutions,” said Sawwagh. According to the opposition, the government plans to cut the number of votes allowed to each voter from four to two or one vote, giving more freedom to corrupt candidates to buy votes. This is seen as an attempt to cut the strength of the opposition in the next Assembly.
“Today, we declare our rejection for undermining the constitution and consider any change to the law as a coup against the constitution. If you do not respect the constitution, we will not respect you,” added Sawwagh. He said the Kuwaiti people respect and highly estimate the Al-Sabah ruling family and questioned, “why then are you scared from the people and reformists?” He insisted that the situation in the country has deteriorated to a very bad level as chaos has started and influential and corrupt people have wrested total control over the state and its institutions. Sawwagh appealed to HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to uproot corruption forces and chaos.
Member of the scrapped 2012 Assembly Bader Al-Dahoum said the Kuwaiti people will not allow the decision-making process to fall in the hands of one person as the time of slavery has ended. Dahoum said the opposition will not allow these emergency decrees to pass, threatening that if they are issued, the opposition will boycott the election. “If we boycott the election, we will not sit at home,” said Dahoum. “We are before a very serious turning point and the question is whether to be or not to be. If you do not respect us we will not respect you”.
Nayef Al-Merdas, a member of the 2012 Assembly, warned Kuwait could witness Arab Spring-like protests. “We are not less than Arab peoples who have extracted their rights. We have repeatedly warned of the Arab Spring” hitting Kuwait, he said. Waleed Al-Tabtabaei said that the opposition will boycott the election if the law was changed and “we will not sit at home. We will launch protests and we will not stop until the decree and the Assembly elected on its basis fall together”. The gathering was held hours after the chief of Awazem tribe, the largest beduoin tribe in Kuwait, Falah bin Jame, said that his tribesmen will boycott the election if the election law was changed.