x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Kuwait warns it will take 'all necessary measures' to break up protests

Kuwait's ministry of the interior has warned that it will break-up any unlicensed demonstrations, following two nights of clashes between protesters and security forces in out-lying areas of Kuwait's urbanised coast.

Kuwait's ministry of the interior has warned that it will break-up any unlicensed demonstrations, following two nights of clashes between protesters and security forces in out-lying areas of Kuwait's urbanised coast.

The country has been hobbled by several political crises this year.

The most recent unrest comes after tribal and Islamist MPs, as well as a growing youth movement, boycotted elections over the weekend.

They were protesting government-mandated changes to the electoral law in October that they said made the vote illegitimate.

Activists said that over the previous two nights, several hundred people had protested in Kuwait's fourth and fifth districts, tribal-dominated areas with high opposition support. Videos circulated by activists appeared to show tear gas being used to break up the gatherings.

"The interior ministry will never allow any unauthorised gatherings, whatever their aims and needs are," the ministry said.

It added that the protestors had blocked roads and thrown stones at security forces.

"A crowd marched in several residential areas in some districts in violation of laws and procedures," it said.

After this weekend's disputed ballot, the opposition vowed to use legal challenges and further protests to push for the dissolution of the newly elected parliament, which is due to convene on December 16.

Four former MPs, Abdullah Al Roumi, Marzouq Al Ghanim, Adel Al Saraawi and Aseel Al Awadhi, launched a legal appeal against the electoral rules in the Constitutional Court this week.

An opposition rally has also been scheduled for Saturday. It would be the fourth in a series of large-scale protests in Kuwait City. A day before the elections, tens of thousands of Kuwaitis joined a licensed, pro-boycott demonstration.

But the smaller clashes that have now erupted in neighborhoods would seem to signal a shift in the confrontation between the opposition and government.

"For the first time, we have security forces in residential areas," said one activist. He added that several protestors had been injured and roughly a dozen activists had been arrested in recent days.

"There is no social justice in these areas where protests were," he said, citing grievances that tribal elements of Kuwaiti society have been marginalised in the country's politics.

Meanwhile, Kuwait's Emir, Shiekh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, began consultations with former ministers and MPs to form a new cabinet ahead of the convening of parliament.

Jockeying for the speakership of the newly elected, largely pro-government assembly, is also under way, local media reported.

edickinson@thenational.ae