A section of the crowd at Al-Erada Square Sunday evening
Thousands hold ‘decree’ protest ‘Don’t seek to topple regime’

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 11: Thousands of citizens and opposition supporters marked the Kuwait Constitution Golden Jubilee by gathering in Al-Erada Square on Sunday. In protest to what they perceive are government violations of the people’s sovereignty, the crowd chanted “The people seek the repeal of the decree” and “We won’t back down” among other slogans.

“The Will of the Nation” gathering included  prominent opposition activists and former lawmakers, who were warmly greeted in the square by passionate applause, cheers and ululating women. In the color that symbolizes the so-called reformist youth movement that appeared in 2006, the crowd wore orange scarves, orange “boycott” tags and held orange and Kuwaiti flags.

Amidst an extensive security presence, including a military helicopter, a large number of orange balloons were released to the sky. The gathering chanted for the boycott of the Dec 1 elections and sang the national anthem while opposition activists gave speeches from the main stage. A photo gallery was displayed depicting previous street protests and clashes with security men.

Earlier, outspoken former MP Musallam Al-Barrak had called upon the nation to attend “the real celebration” on Sunday to mark anniversary of the Constitution. He said that the next assembly will not be recognized by the people and will not last as it will be a “bribed assembly”.

“We have the right to use all our peaceful tools in objection to the one-vote. I don’t know who will vote for those candidates when most tribes, families and citizens are boycotting. They want to revise the Constitution through the next assembly but the people will not allow it because the 1962 Constitution is not a “firework that will burn on the Gulf Road but the people’s most important right,” he stated prior to event.

On his part, former lawmaker and member of the opposition Majority Bloc Khaled Sultan urged parliament elections candidates to withdraw “because most of its members will be those involved in the multi-million deposits scandal and therefore the next National Assembly will not last long and will be worse than the 2009 Assembly.”

Addressing the ruling family, he said that “the opposition does not seek to topple the regime as pundits are claiming, but they are acting to protect the monarchy.”

“My message to the ruling family is that you have the people and the one-vote aims at confiscating the people’s right to choose their representatives,” he added.

Former MP Ali Al-Deqbasi said he resigned as chairman of the Arab Parliament due to the political crises in his country and announced he is boycotting elections.

Veteran political activist Ahmed Al-Saadoun also addressed the crowd announcing that “an unprecedented success in boycotting elections had been achieved.” The gathering ended peacefully.
The opposition forces, made up of Islamists, nationals and liberals, are protesting HH the Amir’s decision to reduce the number of votes citizens are allowed to cast from four to one. Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah took the decision in October after dissolving the 2009 Assembly.
The controversial 2009 Assembly was dissolved in December 2011 after opposition-led protests but was reinstated by the Constitutional Court in June. The court further scrapped the opposition-led 2012 Assembly after it was elected in February. The Dec 1 poll will be the second parliament election to be held this year.

In objection to the electoral amendment, which the opposition believes was aimed at securing a pro-government parliament, rallies and marches were organized. They were met with tear gas, smoke bombs, stun grenades and arrests by the Interior Ministry, which had warned that it will not be lenient on “illegal” demonstrations outside Al-Erada Square.

A record 163 candidates filed their nomination papers on the last day of registration to contest the Dec. 1 2012 National Assembly elections. This brought to 387 the total number of candidates who have joined the fray for the 50-seat Parliament. All the former MPs who were implicated in the  “millions of deposits scanda” are contesting the elections, except for Mohammed Al-Mutair, and less that 10 of the scrapped 2012 Assembly are contesting.

“We have to be aware of the growing dangers in the region and must be aware that this shrapnel is falling around us,” Sheikh Sabah said on Saturday in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s Constitution, published by state news agency KUNA.

He said Kuwaitis should cast their ballot as a “national duty” and called for unity.

There were different estimates of the crowd, from a more realistic 6,000-7,000 to 18,000 by a news agency and 50,000 by another source. The organisers, however, gave a figure of 200,000.


By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Nihal Sharaf Arab Times Staff

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