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Kuwaiti opposition supporters face police during a demonstration in Kuwait, yesterday.
KUWAIT: Police in Kuwait used tear gas and stun grenades yesterday to disperse demonstrators as thousands marched in a protest against changes to the electoral law which the opposition has called a constitutional coup by the government, witnesses said.
Demonstrators had gathered in various parts of the capital, Kuwait City, to march towards the government’s headquarters. Riot police surrounded some groups, gave them a few minutes to disperse, and then used tear gas and stun grenades against them, witnesses said. Several people were injured.
Protesters later regrouped to form a larger crowd — estimated at more than 20,000 people — which gathered at a road near Kuwait Towers, a seaside landmark in the country.
The authorities had previously promised to “decisively confront” protesters to prevent the demonstration.
The opposition decided to take to the streets after the government announced last week it was calling elections for December 1 and would change the electoral law “to preserve national unity”.
The announcement was the latest move in an intensifying power struggle between the ruling establishment and parliament that has seen eight governments come and go since the Kuwaiti Emir, H H Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, came to power in 2006.
He dissolved parliament on October 7. It was the sixth time the oil-rich state and key US ally had disbanded its legislature since early 2006.
Kuwait’s oil wealth and a generous welfare state have so far helped it avoid the kind of “Arab Spring” protests that forced out leaders elsewhere in the region.