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Orange march: Thousands join in Kuwaiti opposition demo as election looms

Published time: November 30, 2012 20:42
Edited time: December 01, 2012 06:04

Photo from RT's Lucy Kafanov

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Tens of thousands of protesters have joined a Kuwaiti opposition march on the eve of the parliamentary election. The people are calling for a boycott of Saturday’s vote, outraged at the recent electoral law change.

­With what appears to be the largest demonstration in Kuwait’s history, an unlikely coalition of liberal factions, youth groups and conservative Islamists sent a message of public discontent to the ruling Al-Sabah family.

Friday march is the first government-authorized protest rally in Kuwait since a ban on political gatherings was announced earlier this month, RT’s Lucy Kafanov reports from Kuwait City.

Organizers have promised a peaceful march, though fears of breakaway groups trying to confront security forces were reported.

“People are now being jailed for expressing political criticisms. What kind of democracy is this?” protesters shouted as they marched through the streets with orange ribbons and banners.

Orange has been the colour of Kuwaiti opposition supporters for years. 4,000 orange balloons were released at November 30 rally. (Reuters / Jamal Saidi)
Orange has been the colour of Kuwaiti opposition supporters for years. 4,000 orange balloons were released at November 30 rally. (Reuters / Jamal Saidi)

­“Today, the Kuwaiti people are sending a message peacefully that we are against the amendment and against the oppressive attitude of the government,” opposition leader Adel al-Damkhi was quoted as saying by local media as the march got underway.

Musallam al-Barrak, former lawmaker and a prominent figure in the nationalist Popular Action Bloc, waves a Kuwaiti national flag and chants slogans during a protest in Kuwait City November 30, 2012.(Reuters / Jamal Saidi)
Musallam al-Barrak, former lawmaker and a prominent figure in the nationalist Popular Action Bloc, waves a Kuwaiti national flag and chants slogans during a protest in Kuwait City November 30, 2012.(Reuters / Jamal Saidi)

­Kuwait’s opposition movement perceives the amendment issued by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in October as a move towards autocracy. The law change, which leaves only one in ten MPs in each constituency decided by public vote, is a breach of the constitution, protesters say. They are refusing to back down from boycotting the vote, anticipating a pro-government parliament to be elected on Saturday.

“We will not recognize the next government and its parliament,” Musallam al-Barrak, former Kuwaiti MP, vowed before the rally.

Kuwaiti opposition supporters chant slogans during a protest against the general election in Kuwait City November 30, 2012.(Reuters / Jamal Saidi)
Kuwaiti opposition supporters chant slogans during a protest against the general election in Kuwait City November 30, 2012.(Reuters / Jamal Saidi)

­The country’s emir, a member of Al-Sabah family that has ruled Kuwait for 250 years, has scrapped the parliament four times since 2006.

Since late October, several mass protests have broken out in Kuwait. As the government pronounced these demonstrations illegal, they were cracked down by police using stun grenades and tear gas. More than 150 protesters and 24 policemen have been injured in violent clashes.

Many women and children joined a protest against the general election carrying Kuwaiti flags and orange banners. (Reuters / Jamal Saidi)
Many women and children joined a protest against the general election carrying Kuwaiti flags and orange banners. (Reuters / Jamal Saidi)