Kuwaiti court rejects government bid to change election laws
Victory for kingdom's opposition as calls grow for monarchy to grant parliament more power
Kuwait's top court threw out a request by the government to change voting laws, in a victory for opposition campaigners who are demanding that the ruling family hand more powers to elected politicians.
The Constitutional Court, which drew criticism in June by dissolving the opposition-dominated parliament, ruled yesterday against a government bid to amend the electoral law, the state-run Kuwait News Agency reported.
The ruling is likely to defuse immediate tensions with the opposition, which had promised to take to the streets if the court ruled in the government's favour.
Thousands rallied late on Monday in front of the parliament, calling for its powers to be expanded.
"The constitutional ruling today means that the government should resign immediately," Islamist MP Faisal al-Muslem wrote on Twitter, calling for new parliamentary elections.
Kuwait's steps towards democracy have led to repeated clashes between the parliament and governments chosen by the ruling Al-Sabah family.
The opposition won a majority in the elections in February, only for the court to annul the vote in a June ruling and reinstate the previous parliament. Since then, opposition lawmakers have refused to attend and called on premier Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, like his predecessor Sheikh Nasser a member of the ruling family, to quit.
Many opposition figures, including lawmaker Waleed Al- Tabtabai, demand a constitutional monarchy. "It's high time that people regained sovereignty," he told a recent opposition rally, according to Al-Jarida newspaper.
"We, the nation, have decided that Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak will be the last prime minister from the descendants of Mubarak." Addressing the dynasty, he said: "You rule, and we govern."
The recurring rows have held back Kuwait's US$112 billion development plan to modernise and diversify an oil-reliant economy.
Kuwait's opposition includes Islamists, liberals and independents, as well as youth groups that draw inspiration from last year's Arab uprisings. Some groups demand a constitutional monarchy and an elected government, while others say their focus is fighting corruption.
On Monday, around 4,000 people packed into a square outside parliament. The turnout was greater than in similar protests over the past month and there was a more visible police presence. Men in traditional Kuwaiti white robes kicked off their sandals and sat cross-legged on carpets in the square.
Around 500 people sat in chairs in front of the main stage. A small group of women, mainly wearing black abayas, sat in a separate section near the front.
Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse