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A sign reading "The nation's dignity hotel, welcome to the free people" is seen as Kuwaiti opposition supporters gather outside the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City to protest against the emir's desision to amend the electoral law
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s Emir, H H Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, said yesterday he has ordered the government to amend the controversial electoral law despite threats by the opposition to boycott polls.
“I have directed the government to introduce a partial amendment to the voting system” of the electoral constituency law, the emir said in a televised speech.
The decision is highly expected to spark strong reactions from the opposition and plunge the state further into political turmoil.
Yesterday the public prosecution ordered the detention of three former opposition MPs for three days with more arrests expected.
The three — Falah Al Sawwagh, Bader Al Dahum and Khaled Al Tahus — were questioned for nine hours on accusations of undermining the status of Kuwait’s ruler before being taken into custody around midnight, defence lawyer Mohammad Al Jumaih said.
The Islamist- and nationalist-led opposition has threatened to boycott an upcoming parliamentary election and stage street protests if the law was amended, accusing the government of trying to manipulate the polls results.
The law, issued in 2006 after opposition-led protests, divides the Gulf state into five electoral constituencies each electing 10 MPs to the 50-member parliament.
Under the law, each eligible voter is allowed to elect a maximum of four candidates and the government amendment will reduce this number to either one or two.
The opposition has also threatened to stage street demonstrations and announced that it will organise today the first procession against the government plan.
The prosecutor also extended the detention for three more days of four opposition activists arrested on Monday during clashes between police and protesters following a huge rally.
The move came as hundreds of supporters of the Islamist and nationalist-led opposition and former lawmakers gathered outside the Palace of Justice in the capital, Kuwait City, in solidarity with the ex-MPs and activists.
Local media and activists said more arrest orders will be issued soon against several former lawmakers including outspoken opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak on the same accusations.
The opposition leaders are being summoned for speaking at three rallies held this month to protest an alleged government plan to amend the electoral law to manipulate election results.
Breaking decades-old taboos, speakers directly addressed Emir, warning him that any amendment to the electoral law could lead to street protests and chaos.
The emirate embraced parliamentary democracy half a century ago, but it is illegal under the constitution to criticise the emir.
“The detention of the former MPs is an unwise decision ... It will only fuel tensions in the country and instigate more protests,” former Islamist lawmaker Mohammad Hayef warned on his Twitter account.