Protests in Kuwait Come Closer to Boiling Point

More protests are scheduled in Kuwait for this Sunday, November 11th, following protests last Sunday that were repressed by security forces with stun grenades and tear gas. The choice of November 11th is pointed – it is the anniversary of Kuwait’s constitution, which has recently been threatened by the actions of the Emir and his government. This Sunday’s protest is a joint rally that will take place at Erada Square, which is opposite parliament, and is a designated area for protests. Recently many protests have spread beyond Erada Square, giving the authorities a pretext to crack down on them.

These protests come as the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, seems to still be out of touch with the demands of the people. He said that the constitutional court might be called upon to decide the fate of his recent decree that reduced the number of votes that Kuwaiti citizens have from four to one for the elections that are scheduled to be held on December 1st.

The opposition’s movement to boycott these elections has been gaining momentum recently, as evidenced by the fact that an account created by Mohammad Qasem, founder of the Public Committee for the Election Boycott gained 20,000 Twitter followers within 24 hours of its creation.

The Emir claimed that he keeps an equal distance between supporters and opponents, and would abide by any decision by the constitutional court regarding his decree on the electoral process. However, this sidesteps a very important issue – why is it that that Emir, simply by issuing a decree, was able to rearrange the entire process of selecting members of the National Assembly in a way that might more probably be favorable to his supporters? Also, how can he keep his distance from both sides at a time when he has vowed to crack down on demonstrations which he referred to as “chaotic rallies.”

There have been more ominous developments in Kuwait recently, a country which for a long time was considered more open than its neighbors in the Gulf. The Interior Ministry stated that it would seek to crack down on social media to “safeguard the cohesiveness of the population and society.” Also, recently-freed former MP Musallam al-Barrack confirmed Jordanian involvement in the crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators.

As of now the protests have remained moderate and few have called for the fall of the regime. However, if the government continues its repression and ignores the demands of the people it is questionable how long this will remain the case. It seems that the Kuwaiti government is, much like the Jordanian government, making pledges of reform while continuing with more of the same unaccountable government and manipulated elections for legislative bodies that remain relatively powerless.

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