KUWAIT: Tens of thousands of people marched in Kuwait yesterday calling for a voter boycott, a day before a parliamentary election that looks unlikely to defuse tensions in the Gulf country.
Political activists and opposition politicians, who have already said they will not contest the election, called the rally to protest at a decree that changed voting rules. They say it will skew the outcome in favor of pro-government candidates.
But Kuwait’s disaffected say they seek democratic reform, not revolution in the mold of Arab Spring revolts elsewhere.
The emir said the amendments to voting rules were made to preserve national security and stability.
Marchers in the “Nation’s Dignity” rally set off at 3 p.m. (1200 GMT) from various locations in Kuwait City, converged on the main, palm tree-lined coastal road and proceeded toward the landmark Kuwait Towers on the northeast side of the capital.
They waved balloons, national flags and banners, wore orange clothing — the color representing the boycott — and sang songs. There was a light police presence and no sign of the armored trucks and riot officers deployed against previous marches.
“I am conscious that there are those who have called for a boycott of the election,” Information Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah said late on Thursday.
“I find this of great regret and I hope to the bottom of my heart that the 400,000-plus Kuwaitis who have the ability to cast their votes for their preferred candidate will exercise their democratic right to do so.”