GULF

Kuwait

Kuwait security forces use tear gas against opposition supporters at rally

Action targeted 2,000 opposition supporters protesting against new election voting rules

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2012, 3:27am

Kuwaiti security forces fired tear gas to disperse about 2,000 opposition supporters protesting against new voting rules for parliamentary elections on December 1 that they say favour pro-government candidates.

Opposition leaders have said they will boycott the elections and have called for more demonstrations.

Hundreds of police lined the route in central Kuwait City hours before the planned march on Sunday, raising fears of a repeat of clashes last month between police and thousands of demonstrators that ended with at least 30 people hospitalised.

The Information Ministry cleared its car park on the orders of the National Guard, news service al-Rai said in an SMS alert, while a major shopping mall and meeting point along the route closed early. Protesters instead gathered on the side of a motorway away from the centre of town, but security forces moved in and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

"Our duty is to maintain internal security and public order," Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Hamoud al-Sabah said on state news agency KUNA.

But opposition activists were undeterred. "We will continue. The opposition no longer cares about government statements," said an activist who declined to be named.

The Kuwait stock index fell to its lowest level since July 2004 on Sunday. Kuwait has one of the most open political systems in the Gulf with an elected parliament with legislative powers.

However, the 83-year-old emir has the final say in state affairs and picks the prime minister, who selects the cabinet, with most important portfolios held by the ruling Al-Sabah family.