x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Kuwait MPs pass controversial electoral decree

Parliament overwhelmingly approves electoral decree that caused opposition to boycott last month's general elections.

KUWAIT CITY // Kuwait's parliament yesterday overwhelmingly approved the electoral decree that caused the opposition to boycott last month's general elections.

Forty-nine lawmakers voted for the decree issued by the emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah in October after he dissolved the previous parliament. Two MPs voted against the decree while three others abstained.

Under the constitution, the Kuwaiti ruler can issue legislation in emergency situation when parliament is dissolved or in recess. These decrees must be passed by parliament to become laws, however.

The decree amended the key electoral law to allow voters to pick only one candidate instead of four in the previous law. Each of Kuwait's five electoral constituencies elects 10 MPs.

The opposition boycotted the polls saying the amendment allows the government to manipulate the outcome of the election.

The Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition have staged several demonstrations to press for repealing the amendment and to demand dissolving the new parliament.

Police on Sunday fired tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of opposition protesters who demanded that the new parliament be dissolved and controversial electoral legislation be scrapped.

Police arrested several protesters including Osama Al Shaheen, a member of the previous opposition-dominated parliament.

It was the first opposition demonstration in about a month, with a much smaller turnout than the tens of thousands of people who took part in each of the previous four rallies starting on October 21.

The country has been rocked by a series of political disputes since mid-2006 between MPs and the government.