Kuwait opposition to boycott polls under amended law

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Kuwait’s opposition will boycott any future poll under a controversial electoral law amended last year, even if the constitutional court upholds the amendment next month, a former MP said on Monday.

The highly anticipated verdict is due to be handed down on June 16.

Opposition former MPs “decided to boycott the next election if the constitutional court confirms” the amendment, Faisal al-Muslim said after a lengthy meeting early on Monday.

Kuwait’s 50-seat parliament is entirely made up of government loyalists, with not a single opposition lawmaker after the opposition boycotted a general election last December.

Under the amended law, ordered by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah in October, each voter chooses a single candidate compared with a maximum of four under the previous law issued in 2006 after popular protests.

Muslim said Monday’s meeting was attended by 24 former MPs and the boycott decision has authorisation from at least six others, as well as being backed by many opposition groups.

The electoral law divides the oil-rich Gulf emirate into five electoral districts, with 10 MPs elected from each district to the 50-seat parliament.

As a result of the amendment, almost all opposition groups and former MPs boycotted the December poll on the grounds that the amendment allows the government to manipulate election results to create a rubber-stamp parliament.

The opposition former MPs decided “that without reinstating the 2006 electoral law, they will not participate in any polls,” Muslim said.

The constitutional court, whose rulings are final, is due to rule next month on 23 challenges to the amended electoral law and the December election process.

Among the possible decisions is that the court may scrap the amendment and order the dissolution of parliament.

Kuwait has been gripped by political crisis for months because of the amendment, and several protests against the law have turned violent.

Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti appeals court on Monday overturned a five-year jail sentence given to an opposition politician convicted of insulting the ruling emir in a speech, a defence lawyer said.

Under Kuwait’s legal system, Musallam al-Barrak could still receive another sentence. The case will continue at the appeals court next month, lawyer Mohammed Abdel Kadr al-Jassim said.

A former member of parliament, Barrak has been out on bail since he was sentenced in April.

He was found guilty by a court of insulting Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah at a rally in October in which he urged the emir to avoid “autocratic rule”.

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