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Kuwaiti police cracked down on a demonstration attended by opposition MP’s and leaders, injuring at least five. The government says the public gathering was not authorised. Following the scrapping of parts of the public gatherings law in 2006 by the constitutional court, public rallies were held freely without any government intervention and without a prior permission from the government. But, after sectarian tensions rose sharply in the past few weeks, the government said the law does not permit holding rallies without any restrictions, insisting that only indoor rallies are allowed while outdoor rallies are banned.

 

Demonstrators were protesting against an alleged "government plot" to amend the constitution in a bid to suppress freedom and democratic rights.

 

Medical sources said Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabai and other MPs were taken to hospital for treatment of wounds and fractures caused by the beating. The rally was the second of a series of opposition protests against an alleged "government plot" to amend the 1962 constitution which made Kuwait the first Arab state in the Gulf to embrace parliamentary democracy.

 

Opposition MP’s filed a request to grill the prime-minister as a result.

 

In the first parliamentary session since the clashes, MPs clashed in parliament and strongly blasted the government, with some calling for its resignation. Pro-government MP Hussein Al-Qallaf accused the opposition of dragging the country into a political crisis over the immunity of MP Faisal Al-Muslim. The state public prosecutor has applied for the lifting of the immunity of Al-Muslim to enable trying him on charges of incitement. Qallaf and Muslim were about to start a fist-fight when other MP’s intervened.

 

Qallaf told reporters that he believes the grilling filed by three opposition MPs was not directed at the prime minister. "I believe that the grilling is not directed to the prime minister but to the Emir ... those who respect the Emir will not support the grilling, so I think that the number of supporters will decrease" he said.

 

The grilling request charged Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah of “breaching the constitution and imposing restrictions on public freedoms”.

 

Opposition MPs seized the opportunity of a debate on requests to lift the immunity of five MPs and lashed out the government, charging that it is plotting against the constitution. MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said the government committed a flagrant violation in parliamentary practices when it caused the immunity of MP Muslim to be lifted automatically simply by boycotting three assembly sessions in the past two weeks. "What is happening is a free fall of the constitutional and parliamentary practices and tools said Harbash. "Today, we are seeing the fall of popular monitoring. The country is sliding into a very serious low" he said.

 

After voting, the assembly refused requests by the public prosecution to lift the immunity of MPs Mussallam Al-Barrak, Hussein Al-Qallaf, Mohammad Hayef and Dulaihi Al-Hajeri and agreed to lift the immunity of MP Mubarak Al-Waalan. During the session also, MP Marzouk Al-Ghanem strongly criticized sports officials after a report by the Audit Bureau said some sports bodies have refused to cooperate with an investigation ordered by the assembly. Ghanem alleged that people behind the sports bodies are the ones running the actual government in Kuwait which "is the government of corruption".

 

The government closed down the offices of Al Jazeera TV for covering the clashes.

 

December 9-15, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

The events in Kuwait are unprecedented in their severity. In previous cases when the prime-minister was grilled, seen as a humiliation, the Emir dissolved parliament. On this occasion, on the government side, accusations that the grilling was directed against the Emir whilst the opposition’s accuse the prime-minister of trying to change the constitution. The response by the police against opposition MP’s is also unprecedented.

 

The events that have developed rapidly appear to be getting more complicated. It is more likely that the Emir will dissolve parliament and may not immediately call for elections, thus creating a constitutional vacuum. This would be the third time parliament has been dissolved in as many years, however, because this comes at a time of unprecedented tensions over the constitution, the dissolution of parliament and suspension of parliamentary life is likely to lead to further civil unrest.