Kuwait emir denounces opposition

People attend an anti-government protest in downtown Kuwait City on 15 December 2012, on the eve of the inauguration of the parliament. (Photo: Reuters - Stephanie McGehee)

Published Sunday, December 16, 2012

Updated: 4:20pm: Kuwait's autocratic ruler denounced the opposition for threatening to "tear apart" the nation on Sunday as activists demonstrated outside the parliament during a speech in which he opened the newly-elected assembly.

All of us "condemn these practices and the actions that breached the law, norms and values, worried citizens and caused chaos," the emir, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said in reference to opposition demonstrations.

He also praised the security forces who violently clamped down on a wave of anti-government protests.

Police cordoned off a square across from the assembly where the opposition planned to protest against the opening, but a small number of activists still managed to get close to the area.

The new parliament, almost entirely dominated by pro-government MPs, was elected on December 1 amid a massive opposition boycott in protest over an electoral law amendment.

The Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition have described the new parliament as "illegitimate" because it was elected on the basis of the amendment.

Protest leaders pledge to strengthen their push for the dissolution of the new parliament and call new elections under the former rules, which allowed voters to cast multiple ballots and appeared to favor the opposition.

The election boycott capped months of political showdowns that included street clashes and tear gas – the first serious unrest in a country that had previously avoided any upheaval during the Arab Spring.

On Saturday, more than 1,000 protesters held an overnight occupation of streets in a Kuwait City commercial district. One of the main protest leaders, Musallam al-Barrak, urged supporters not back down until the emir disbands the "parliament of puppets" and sets new elections.

Several of the protesters then headed to the parliament building in the morning before police drove them away. At least two people were arrested.

They also plan to gather outside parliament on Sunday evening.

The opposition has staged demonstrations during the past few weeks in which tens of thousands of protesters took part.

The oil-rich Gulf state has been rocked by a series of political crises since mid-2006, with the cabinet having resigned 10 times and parliament having been dissolved on six occasions.

The Sabah family has ruled Kuwait for over 250 years. The emir, crown prince, prime minister and key cabinet ministers all hail from the ruling family.

(AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)

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