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Kuwaiti opposition calls for mass demonstrations

Kuwait's Islamist-led opposition has called for mass demonstrations this weekend, in response to the government's decision to amend an electoral law before the December parliamentary elections.

The Kuwaiti opposition on Saturday vowed to boycott the December elections, accusing the government of trying to tilt the polls in favor of its own candidates.

The December polls are set to be the second time in a year that the oil-rich, Gulf Arab state has elected a new 50-seat legislature, amid a growing political crisis between the US-backed constitutional monarchy and an opposition led by Islamists.

"I call on every Kuwaiti to tear the December 1 paper from the calendar and throw it in the dustbin," said Mussallam al-Barrak, an opposition leader and former parliamentarian. "It is a black day for Kuwaiti political history."

The Islamist-led opposition took control of parliament last February, after the pro-government legislature elected in December 2009 had been dissolved amid popular protests stemming from corruption allegations. But the constitutional court subsequently scrapped the Islamist-controlled parliament and reinstated the pro-government one.

Call for demonstrations

Responding to calls from the Islamist-led opposition, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved - once again - the pro-government parliament on October 7. But the opposition has now called for mass demonstrations to be held on Sunday, to protest against an amendment made by the emir to an electoral law.

Currently, Kuwaitis are allowed to cast ballots for four candidates in one of five districts. Under the amended law, they would only be able to vote for one candidate. The opposition has expressed concern that the changes are designed to facilitate the victory of pro-government candidates, thereby giving a rubber-stamp pro-government parliament a veil of political legitimacy.

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry has warned that it would strictly enforce rules against "sit-ins, gatherings, processions, rallies…in any place other than the square facing parliament."

"Any act of violence, riots, instigation of violence…and undermining national security will be deal with forcefully and firmly," the ministry said.

slk/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters)