The Kuwaiti Election and Its Aftermath

On Tuesday, the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, announced that all those who were jailed for insulting him would receive a pardon. The fact that this comes so quickly after an election indicates that it might be part of a strategy by the regime to reduce tensions. The pardon announcement includes one name and one group of people that are conspicuous for their absence – Musallam al-Barrak is not included, and neither are those who participated in the storming of parliament. The announcement was made in a speech in which the Emir said that he was issuing the pardon on the occasion of the final ten days of the month of Ramadan.

Barrak’s lawyer said that the reason is because there has been no final verdict in his case. It also appears not to apply to those who are facing pending charges – and in Kuwait, insulting the Emir is subject to a potential five year prison sentence.

The fact that these pardons come in the wake of an election is very interesting, and telling. In this most recent election there were slight gains by liberals, but many of the major opposition factions decided to boycott. The regime’s decision to pardon many of the defendants (but not Barrak) may be an attempt to divide the opposition’s supporters from the political figures who play a leading role in the movement. In the election, Shi’ite MPs won eight seats which is a major drop from 17 seats in the previous parliament. Three liberals were elected compared with zero before (the last election for the now-annulled parliament was boycotted) and, Sunni Islamists increased their total to seven seats after winning five previously.

The major change was that major tribes which boycotted last time decided to participate, as well as some liberal voters, boosting the turnout to 52.5 percent. There were several tribes that participated this time but did not do so the last time, including the Awazem, the Mutair, and the Rashaida, although their electoral success was relatively limited prompting some observers to argue that the recent electoral system places the largest tribes at a disadvantage. One interesting element about the tribal vote was that there were several smaller tribes that gained seats at the expense of their larger counterparts.

This election appears to over little in terms of a long term settlement of Kuwait’s political crisis. 26 out of 50 MPs are new compared to the previous parliament, but the Prime Minister was just reappointed by the Emir. What remains to be seen is if this election ushers in a phase of tenuous stability and if this is enough to enable the country to achieve the economic diversification that it desperately needs to reduce the impact of swings in the price of oil and other petroleum products.

Political Prospects for Kuwait’s Next Election

On Sunday, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Emir’s decree that reduced the number of votes for each citizen from four to one. However, it also dissolved the National Assembly elected in December 2010 on a technicality, and because it ruled that a decree that the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, issued setting up a National Election Commission violated Kuwait’s constitution. New elections to replace the dissolved parliament must be held by August under Article 107 of Kuwait’s constitution.

Although it dissolved the loyalist-dominated parliament elected in December, the regime’s officials seemed mostly pleased with the ruling. General Mahmoud Al-Dousari, Interior Ministry Undersecretary for Major Security Affairs said that protests following the ruling would not be permitted, even in Erada Square where they had previously been allowed, claiming that the ruling of the court was final and Kuwait’s citizens accepted it. The Chairman of the National Electoral Committee itself was supportive of the ruling, despite the fact that the court eliminated his job, and he noted that a new decree would need to be issued regarding municipal elections that were to be held on July 6th. The Emir gave a speech in support of the ruling and urged citizens to accept it.

The opposition’s reaction was mostly negative, although the National Democratic Alliance, an alliance of liberal opposition groups announced it would take part in the elections that must be held by August. Other opposition groups reiterated their intention to boycott the upcoming elections if they are held under the one-vote decree. Twenty-four former MPs met at the office of former National Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al-Saadoun, at which they criticized the decision and announced they would boycott the upcoming elections. However, the regime may be calculating that turnout will rise among liberals who decide to participate as well as tribes which vote after boycotting the previous election. Recently the Emir has made attempts to reach out to Kuwait’s tribes, which were a major source of support for the opposition. Prior to the ruling the leader of the Awazem tribe (Kuwait’s largest) spoke against opposition demands and urged Kuwait’s citizens to attend a dinner in honor of the Emir.

The regime appears to be seeking a scenario in which increased tribal participation would boost turnout, and discredit opposition leaders who boycotted the elections. It could then continue with its strategy of targeting individual supporters of the opposition for prosecution (for example, jailing Twitter users accused of insulting the Emir). It may then in the future hope to placate (and to some degree co-opt) opposition leaders to further enhance its arguments for legitimacy.

The problem is that while in the short term such tactics may well be successful, they also risk eroding the regime’s legitimacy even further. Without this legitimacy, there is a major risk of having the already pervasive economic arrangement (in which oil revenues are used to provide benefits and subsidized state employment to citizens) become even more critical for the regime to sustain itself in power, and even more difficult to change even though in the long term it almost certainly has to.

Musallam al-Barrak and the Competing Arenas of Kuwaiti Politics

Today, Musallam al-Barrak is scheduled to return to court for his appeal against a five-year prison sentence he received for allegedly insulting the Emir. Whatever the court rules today, the ruling will highlight the increasingly bisected nature of Kuwaiti politics between the regime-dominated political system and the opposition’s arena of popular mobilization.

Today’s hearing was scheduled on April 22nd, when Barrak appeared in court and was granted bail by the judge. Following the judge’s decision to grant him bail, thousands of his supporters gathered in the seuare next to the main prison in Salibiya region and lifted him onto their shoulders in an impromptu parade. Barrack said that it was his supporters who had him released after the hearing rather than his bail payment. He feels, not without justification given the fate of many other opposition supporters, that he must rely on public opinion to protect him from the regime’s crackdown on dissent. Last year’s nullified election in February demonstrated the extent of his backing as he received more votes than any other candidate (he boycotted the December election).

During the week between his sentencing on April 15th and his court appearance on April 22nd, Barrack repeatedly insisted that he would comply with the law and surrender when he saw a copy of the original arrest warrant, which he insisted police did not have. He evaded several attempts to arrest him, including a raid on his home (he was not there at the time), which he called a “cowardly action” by the government, which provoked a crowd of about 10,000 protesters to clash with riot police outside of a police station. He denied that his comments from an October rally that the Emir must not rule autocratically were an insult, and his supporters took to repeating his words as a show of solidarity. He insisted publicly that he would comply with the court’s rulings but his actions prior to the court hearing on April 22nd were those of a political figure confident of popular backing and intent on defiance.

The regime’s actions in the recent political crisis, including regarding the case of Barrak appear to be based on the calculation that these protests do not pose a fundamental threat to overthrow the regime. The regime seems also to be attempting to take advantage of the dominance of the political system that the opposition yielded to it by boycotting the election in December.

The stage was set when the February 2012 election resulted in the election of a parliament with a majority of opposition MPs, which meant that the regime could expect more opposition from parliament, including efforts to grill ministers. A series of events following the election took place which suggested that the regime may have been attempting to regain by decree what it lost at the ballot box. Over the summer a court ruling dissolved the parliament elected in February 2012 and reinstated the one elected in 2009. Subsequently, the regime attempted to have the courts overturn the 2006 electoral law, and when this failed, the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, issued a decree seen to favor the regime by reducing the number of votes Kuwaitis could cast from four to one, in a decree seen to favor the regime. This decree, along with the court ruling dissolving the parliament elected in February 2012 was the main catalyst for the opposition’s boycott of the December 2012 elections.

The central calculation by the regime appeared to be that its support would be high enough that they would be able to claim the boycott was a failure, or at least not an unmitigated success. The new parliament legitimized the electoral decree, and actually held a recent debate where MPs criticized the Interior Minister for not cracking down hard enough. The regime’s control of the formal political system has enabled it to have legal justification for cracking down on what it terms to be dissent (e.g. the allegations directed against Barrak for “insulting the Emir”).

Whatever happens in court today, the decision is likely to underline the divisions between Kuwait’s formal and informal political spaces. A denial of the appeal would trigger protests that could potentially be larger than those that have occurred in recent months, but the regime may be able to weather them. A decision to release Barrack – and the decision is up to the judge – would embolden his supporters and also set the stage for further protests on other issues, as well as future legal battles as the opposition would seek to contest the regime’s dominance of the political system. Either way, Kuwait is likely to experience demonstrations this week, and the ruling will be a key factor in determining their nature, their demands, and the degree to which they are violent or peaceful. This is the immediate implication of the decision to be handed down later today.

Protests Erupt in Kuwait Following Detention of Former MPs

Protests erupted in Kuwait on Tuesday following a court verdict in which three former MPs – Falah al-Sawwagh, Bader al-Dahoun, and Khaled al-Tahous, were sentenced to three years of hard labor for allegedly insulting the Emir at rallies opposing changes to the electoral law last year. Despite being convicted, the three MPs are not yet in custody, and in fact they attended opposition rallies. On Monday a Twitter user was jailed for five years for insulting the Emir. The verdicts are not final and are subject to appeal, and at the rallies protesters marched from the home of Sawwagh to Tahus. At the rally, former MP Musallam al-Barrak, who is facing charges similar to those faced by the three former MPs who were convicted of insulting the Emir called the verdict political and said that the opposition would have a meeting to strategize that would be held on Wednesday. Barrak said that protests would be held very day in various areas throughout Kuwait. Perhaps in a sign of things to come, Falah ben Jami, the leader of the Awazem, who are the largest Bedouin tribe in Kuwait, appared at the rally and warned that the political situation in Kuwait would deteriorate like it did in Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia.

The regime appears to be responding to criticism by defending its actions as consistent with upholding the constitution of Kuwait. The Ministry of Information’s comments on the recent convictions present the arrests of critics of the regime as almost a constitution obligation, as though there was nothing that motivated these arrests other than a desire to defend the constitution, which happens to define the Emir’s position is inviolable. In fact, they issued a statement saying that citizens could change the constitution if they sought to do so, presenting the issue as one of constitutionalism – which would, if one ignores the measures that the regime has taken recently, including the Emir’s electoral decree changing the entire voting system – be a plausible argument, though in fact the arrests were clearly political. It was part of a growing campaign by the regime to clamp down on dissent and erode what was once the Gulf’s most open political culture.

It is important to recognize that the law under which the three former MPs were arrested – which prohibits criticism of the Emir – is not only bad policy on a philosophical sense but also in a practical sense. In Tunisia, they decided not to include a clause prohibiting blasphemy in the constitution on practical grounds – in the words of the speaker of the constituent assembly, there would not be a blasphemy clause “not because we have agreed to (allow) attacks on the sacred, but because the sacred is something very, very difficult to define.” Insulting someone’s religious beliefs is much more serious than insulting a country’s ruler, but the same principle outlined by the Tunisian Constituent Assembly Speaker applies – the problem is not just that the Emir’s position is considered to be inviolable, thus making criticism illegal, but also that the definition of criticism itself is difficult to define, and open to political manipulation.

Just as in Tunisia, where they did not include a blasphemy clause due to concerns that politicians might one day accuse those disagreeing with them of blasphemy, there is the potential that prohibiting criticism of the Emir permits those who are opposed to political reform to define criticism in their own terms, and for them to argue that any objection to actions taken by the Emir – including the electoral decree – are in violation of the constitution. The opposition MPs defined their speeches not as criticism but rather as advice. Repealing the provision in the constitution prohibiting criticism of the Emir is right not just in terms of free speech but also because it would deprive the regime of one of the tools it uses to harass anyone who criticises its decisions and policies.

Kuwait Votes in 5th Election in 6 Years

Kuwaitis voted on Saturday for the fifth time in six years, in a vote boycotted by the opposition, which held a rally on Friday attended by factions from across the political spectrum, including youth movements, Islamists, and liberals. The opposition boycotted the election due to the Emir’s decree reducing the number of votes that each voter can cast from four to one, so the election was as much a referendum on the regime as an election campaign, because by participating, voters, and the candidates they supported were acquiescing (at least tacitly) in the Emir’s decree.

The results of this election should thus be taken with the understanding that they contests between regime supporters. However, it is important to analyze them to determine what they mean for the future of Kuwaiti politics, what it means for the nature of the regime’s backers, and what it reveals about the opposition. In particular with regards to the areas where the boycott was most widespread.

Electoral Laws and Procedure

Kuwait has approximately 1.2 million citizens, but only 422,000 are eligible to vote. The minimum age to vote is 21. Naturalized citizens must wait 20 years before being able to vote. Members of the armed forces are not permitted to vote. In this election, women were projected to make up around 54 percent of the overall electorate.

The National Assembly has a total of 50 members. The country is divided into five constituencies, with each constituency electing ten members to the National Assembly. In 2006, a new electoral law was passed that changed the format of Kuwait’s constituencies and voting rules. This law reduced the number of constituencies from 25 (2 members each) to 5 (10 members each) and increased the number of votes that each citizen could cast from one to four.

The government attempted to challenge the legitimacy of this electoral law this year, but the constitutional court rejected the challenge, despite previously dissolving the National Assembly elected in February 2012 on a technicality and reinstating the previous one. Subsequently, the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah triggered the current political crisis by issuing a decree reducing the number of votes that each citizen was allowed to cast from four to one, and the opposition boycotted the election in protest.

Results

There were a total of 308 candidates in five constituencies, competing for a total of 50 seats. The opposition claims that the election had a turnout of 26.7 percent, which would make it the lowest turnout election of any ever held in Kuwait. Official figures from the Ministry of Information give the turnout as 162,601 out of approximately 422,000 eligible voters, which would make the turnout about 38.5 percent.

According to Kuwait Times, the boycott was most effective in the Fourth and Fifth constituencies which have large tribal populations, and least effective in the First constituency, which has a significant Shi’ite population. The number of Shi’ite MPs increased to 15, from 7 in the February 2012 elections and 9 in the 2009 elections. Prominent Shi’ite MPs include Adnan Abdulsamad, Faisal Al-Duwaisan, Saleh Ashour, Hussein Al-Qallaf and Abdulhameed Dashti. Other successful candidates included Ali Al-Rashed, Ali Al-Omair, Ahmad Al-Mulaifi, and Askar Al-Enezi.

Sunni Islamists won 4 seats (down from 23), while tribal candidates won 19 seats, down from 25. It is important to note that three major tribes – the Awazem, Mutair, and Ajman, which altogether have approximately 400,000 members boycotted the election and did not elect a single MP. Four women were elected, as compared to zero in the election in February 2012.

Of the 24 candidates who were initially barred from running in the elections by the Interior Ministry and then subsequently reinstated by the courts, 9 were elected to the new parliament: Saleh Ashour (1st constituency), Yousef Al-Zalzaleh (1st), Saadoun Hamad Al-Otiabi (5th), Askar Al-Enezi (4th), Mubarak Al-Khurainej (4th), Khaled Adwa Al-Ajmi (5th), Nabil Al-Fadhel (3rd), Khaled Al-Shulaimi (4th), and Abdulhameed Dashti (1st).

In an election boycotted by the opposition, the government knew that it would have a new parliament dominated by supporters, but Kuwait’s political crisis is far from over, and new developments could lead to yet another election being called in the not-too-distant future, particularly a ruling by the Constitutional Court against the Emir’s decree, which would dissolve the newly-elected assembly and recall the 2009 National Assembly yet again.

Two Court Rulings in Kuwait

The Administrative Court ruled on Monday that the Emir’s decree reducing the number of votes from four to one is a “sovereign act” and is thus not subject to review by the Administrative Court. The Constitutional Court, which has the authority to rule on such issues is expected to hear an appeal from the opposition after the election.

Another Administrative Court bench ruled that many of the disqualified candidates could participate in the elections, but this is not the blessing for democracy that it seems. Many of these candidates are reported to have accepted bribes from the regime. The former MPs who are allowed to run include Saleh Ashour, Youssef Al-Zalzalah, Khalaf Dumaitheer, Saadoun Hammad, Askar Al-Enezi and Khaled Al-Adwah. They had previously been disqualified on the grounds that they did not enjoy a “good reputation.”

It is interesting that they were excluded on these grounds. The most significant allegation against many of them was that they accepted bribes from the regime (which was the cause of the scandal which led to the storming of parliament and the resignation of then-PM Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah.

This court ruling was perhaps the last opportunity to avert an escalation of Kuwait’s political crisis. The Constitutional Court will likely review the decision after the election, but even if they rule in favor of the opposition is would extend the crisis into new territory. If they annul the decree they would likely annul the election also, meaning that Kuwaiti citizens would be going to vote yet again.

Former MP Ali Al-Omair says courts may delay election

Former MP Ali Al-Omair, who is running for the National Assembly in the Third Constituency, said that it is possible that the court might delay the elections in its ruling tomorrow, according to Kuwait Times. If the court does delay the election then it would mean that the parliament elected in 2009 would be reinstated for a second time, after being reinstated in July by the Constitutional Court. The same court would then rule on whether or not the Emir’s decree is constitutional.

Although he is not boycotting the election, Al-Omair has caused problems for the government in the past. In February 2007 he supported a motion to question then-Health Minister Shaikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah over problems with the health care system, including corruption, discrimination, and a decline in the quality of services. After the questioning the minister was facing a no-confidence vote after 10 members signed a motion which would have meant that a member of the Al-Sabah family was facing a no-confidence motion – despite no Minister ever having been removed by one before. To avoid the vote, the government resigned, and the new government appointed by the Emir did not include the former Health Minister in the new cabinet. Later that year, in October 2007, Al-Omair supported questioning the Minister of Islamic and Awqaf Affairs.

Al-Omair’s comments about the potential postponement of the election outline what would happen in the event that the courts intervene. The new parliament could also review the Emir’s decree if the court does not overturn it – unlikely since it will consist primarily of government supporters, but public pressure can cause people to change their opinions. Either way, Kuwait’s political crisis shows no sign of letting up.

Could Kuwait’s Courts Overrule the Election Decree?

On Monday, November 26th, Kuwait’s Administrative Court is expected to issue a ruling on a legal challenge to the decree by the Emir which reduced the number of votes that each citizen is allowed to cast from four to one. Riyadh Al-Sane, a Kuwaiti lawyer challenged the constitutionality of the decree and is also arguing that the election scheduled for December 1st (next Saturday) should be postponed until that challenge is ruled upon. The court has announced that it will issue its ruling on Monday.

According to an article from Al-Hayat that was republished and Translated by Al-Monitor, the court will be deciding whether or not the election should be postponed until the Constitutional Court can review the decree by the Emir. The Emir, it should be noted, has said that he would accept any ruling by the constitutional court on the issue.

In the event that the issue came before the constitutional court, it is not entirely certain how the court would react to it. Two recent rulings – one of them favorable to the government, the other unfavorable – illustrate that the court has acted contrary to the wishes of the executive branch before, making this another wildcard in Kuwait’s political crisis. In June, the Court dissolved the previous parliament (which was elected in February of this year) because it said that the Emir’s decree calling for the elections in February was not issued correctly.

However, in September they rejected the government’s appeal against the electoral law passed in 2006 which reduced the number of constituencies to five, with ten members elected from each one. On October 19th, the Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree which kept the number of constituencies the same but reduced the number of votes that each citizen has from four to one, meaning that the election according to the opposition, is more susceptible to government manipulation. The protests (and the accompanying election boycott) which have erupted recently cite as a major demand the revocation of the Emir’s decree.

As the situation stands now the election – with virtually all opposition groups boycotting – is more of a referendum on the current political system than an election, as regardless of turnout it is guaranteed that the candidates elected will be favorable to the government. The government has launched a media campaign urging citizens to vote because it wants a higher turnout that would signify support for the current system. If the election goes forward as it is, it would mark a new phase in Kuwait’s current political crisis.

A ruling against the decree could – potentially – take the situation in a different direction. It would give a boost to demonstrations, and would likely set the stage for yet another election campaign with the central issues of the way Kuwait is governed still unresolved.

Is Kuwait Headed for Yet Another Election? (After this one)

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has said that he will accept any decision by the constitutional court regarding his decree reducing the number of votes citizens are allowed to cast from four to one. He said this in a speech during which he urged citizens to vote, and the government has also launched ads urging citizens to cast their ballots. The opposition is planning a rally organized by @KarametWatan for November 30th, the eve of the election that will be called “Dignity of the Nation 3.”

The opposition’s boycott is largely due to the decree issued by the Emir in which he reduced the number of votes that citizens are allowed to cast from four to one. With the Naitonal Assembly consisting of 50 members, with ten each elected from five districts. With the one-vote system, this means that it will be easier for the government to manipulate the electoral process to ensure success by pro-government candidates. Even with the opposition boycotting there are still 389 candidates running for 50 seats, meaning that those elected would likely need less than 10 percent of the vote to win – which is why the opposition views it as favorable to government allies and why they refuse to participate.

Legal challenges may be filed against the Emir’s decree – and this is where it gets interesting. A challenge to the electoral law may be referred to the Constitutional Court by ordinary trial courts, at which point the Constitutional Court can consider making a ruling on the constitutionality of the decree. If the court does decide to overturn the decree – and that’s a big if – then its interesting to see what would happen.

I foresee one of two things – the court itself ordering the dissolution of the national assembly because it was elected improperly (or it being dissolved) or an attempt by the government to resist holding new elections, which would escalate the country’s political crisis further. My guess is that they take the first route, which could lead to yet another general election for Kuwait, which would be the sixth since the current Emir assumed the throne in 2006. If the court decides to maintain the decree then the opposition boycott will continue.

Either way the political crisis is likely to escalate over the coming months, with no clear resolution in sight.

Update 2: Kuwait’s Constitution: A Contested Anniversary

Update 2 (November 11th, 7:45pm): The turnout for protests in Kuwait was large, with at least 50,000 coming out to oppose the electoral law on the anniversary of the constitution, according to those who were there.

Perhaps in an attempt to distract from the protest held on the anniversary, the fireworks display organized by the government to celebrate the anniversary set a Guinness World Record for the largest fireworks display.

Update 1 (November 10th): The Emir gave a speech today in which he commemorated the constitution. He said that it was a “robust guarantee of the viability of the state and the vivacity of the society.” These words are just that – words – and they have little meaning coming from the Emir who provoked the current demonstrations by issuing a decree unilaterally changing the way that elections are held.

This Sunday, November 11th, 2012 is the fiftieth anniversary of Kuwait’s constitution, which was issued by a decree from then-Emir . The opposition is planning to hold a joint demonstration on the anniversary to protest the Emir’s decree changing the electoral law. By holding a demonstration on the anniversary of the constitution the opposition is making a bold statement that the anniversary should be an occasion to protest the government’s actions that threaten the relative freedom that exists in Kuwait now. As of yet, these rallies have not called for radial change or the overthrow of the regime, but as we have mentioned before, if the regime continues responding to peaceful rallies with stun grenades and tear gas it is questionable how long this will remain the case.

The government has also sought to invoke the constitution in defense of its actions, and prominent figures have issued statements praising the constitution even as the government takes steps to undermine its true meaning. The Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said recently - at a meeting with the heads of the Army, police, and national guard – that “We are required today to choose between the state of law and constitution… or the path to chaos and undermining constitutional authority.” Yet what is undermining constitutional authority really? The people demanding real reform and democratization? Or a regime which is attempting to change the entire electoral process through a single decree by the Emir?

The National Assembly, (mind you, the same national assembly which was reconvened after the one elected in February was undemocratically dissolved) has for its part announced it plans to hold exhibits next week in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the constitution. Other figures within the government have spoken up as well. In an article in Kuwait Times, Sheikh Sabah Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah, Director General of the Ports Authoritypraised the constitution, saying – even as the government has vowed to crack down on protests – that “Kuwaitis, since their early history, have been embracing consultation, democracy and popular participation as principle for life and joint action.” This statement is true – they have been embracing the constitution, democracy, and popular participation as principles for life and joint action. Indeed, it’s the government that’s been resisting these principles, both recently and indeed in the past.

The government’s willingness to undermine the constitution when it sees fit is not new, nor are the fundamentally undemocratic elements of the way Kuwait is goverened. In 1976 and 1986 the National Assembly was suspended, and the second time was restored after a determined pro-democracy movement and the experience of the Iraqi occupation, which unified the Kuwaiti people in resistance to the occupiers, and parliament was restored after the 1992 elections.

Interestingly, this isn’t even the first time that the government has tried to manipulate the electoral process by changing the way that elections are held. In 1980 the government did something similar to what the Emir’s decree did recently – it increased the number of districts from 10 to 50, with each district electing one member instead of five.

What is most remarkable and what deserves the greatest recognition on the anniversary on Sunday is the enduring democratic spirit of the Kuwaiti people. They have proven time and again their willingness to resist attempts by the government to limit their rights and manipulate the rules to its advantage. No doubt that spirit will be on display once again as the people come together this Sunday to demand reform and true democracy.