At least five people were arrested at an anti-government protest including the son of a prominent member of the opposition. Several people were hurt. At least 5,000 were at the demonstration.
As reported in Digital Journal earlier this month, the Kuwait assembly has been dissolved by the emir. The opposition is worried that ruling emir, Sheikh Al-Sabah, will attempt to make changes to the election laws to prevent the opposition from winning a majority in the assembly. The demonstration took place even though authorities requested it be cancelled.
In a speech to the crowd, former member of the parliament, Musallam al-Barrack appealed to the emir to avoid "autocratic rule". The son of opposition leader, Ahmed al-Sadadoun was among those detained. The protests took place near the parliament buildings, one of several demonstrations this year.
Last year, protesters stormed the parliament. They called for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah The move was the first which has since evolved into a continuing political struggle between the opposition and Al Sabah family members. The Al Sabah family has ruled Kuwait for literally hundreds of years. The political tensions are preventing implementation of Kuwait's $108 billion economic plan.
A rich oil producer, Kuwait has largely avoided the political upheavals of the Arab Spring, but there have been a series of disputes involving the elected parliament and the cabinet. The cabinet is appointed by the ruling emir's prime minister, rather than parliament.
The Kuwaiti opposition thinks that the government will change election laws to favor government candidates in preparation for new elections. Barrak said to the crowd:"In the name of the nation, in the name of the people, we will not let you, your highness, ... practice autocratic rule." The remarks drew chants of "We will not let you," from the crowd.
Any criticism of the 83 year old Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah is taboo. In the Kuwait constitution he is referred to as "immune and inviolable". Compared to the sort of insults hurled at President Obama and other western rulers, the remarks seem tame, but not in the context of Kuwait politics. An expert on the Gulf States at the London School of Economics, Kristian Ulrichsen, said:"The incendiary public accusations directed by Musallam al-Barrak at the emir of Kuwait are a milestone in the country."
The opposition and political activists called for the emir to set an election date. In the past they have also asked that the cabinet be drawn from the parliament rather than hand-picked by the emir's prime minister. Economic analyst, Adnen al-Delemi said: "The government has not responded yet. This means we are entering into the start of a confrontation." He added that economic reforms were a distant hope because of the turmoil. After several hundred years, Kuwaitis may be tiring of one family rule.