Kuwait to rule on electoral law September 25, protests possible

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2012 9:09 AM
Kuwait to rule on electoral law September 25, protests possible

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's top court will announce on September 25 whether current electoral boundaries are constitutional, a ruling that could spark protests in the increasingly politically divided oil producer.

The government asked the court to rule on a 2006 law that divides Kuwait into five constituencies, a move some opposition figures say is a bid to abolish the current boundaries and gerrymander victory in elections expected this year or next.

Opposition activists took to the streets in protest on August 27 and have promised to turn out again if the court rules in favor of the government and declares the law unconstitutional.

The government says a court ruling is needed to protect against possible legal challenges to future elections.

Kuwait has been in political limbo since the opposition-dominated parliament was effectively dissolved by the same constitutional court in a separate ruling in June.

While the OPEC member state has avoided the kind of mass uprisings that have transformed the Arab region since last year, tensions have increased between the government, opposition lawmakers and youth activists.

Political infighting has held up legislation and investment in Kuwait which has had eight governments in just six years.

The 2006 election law reduced the number of constituencies from 25 to try to reduce vote-buying and tribal influence in a country that enjoys some of the highest per capita wealth in the world.

Although Kuwait's parliamentary system means more democracy than in many Arab oil states, political power still lies in the hands of the ruling al-Sabah family.

The prime minister, chosen by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, hand-picks the cabinet, with the most important posts going to al-Sabah family members. The 83-year-old emir has the right to dissolve parliament.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)