Date for Kuwait elections
on 20/10/2012 14:13:13
The elections - which will be the second this year in the oil-rich Gulf nation - will be held under voting district boundaries that appeared to favour the Islamists and allies in the last ballot in February.
Another opposition victory would bring further pressure on Kuwait's ruling family to loosen its control over key government positions and impose more conservative rules such as banning cultural events considered offensive to Islamic values.
It also could bring more questions over Kuwait's tight alliance with the United States.
Kuwait is one of America's most strategic Gulf military allies, with its importance to Washington rising sharply after the US troop withdrawal from Iraq in December. It is now the hub for US ground forces in the Gulf region, where the US and its Arab allies seek to counter Iran's military build-up.
Kuwait's parliament is the most politically empowered among the Gulf Arab states, and directly challenges the ruling family over its policies and government spending. Opposition lawmakers frequently have demanded top government officials, including the prime minister, appear for questioning.
Opposition groups have staged increasingly bold rallies to demand new elections after parliament was disbanded earlier this month following months of political tensions.
Last week, nearly 8,000 protesters gathered in Kuwait City in a show of force that included clashes with riot police. Later, the ruling family urged the nation to show loyalty to the emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah. Another major opposition rally is planned for Sunday.
Although no changes will be made to voting district rules favoured by the opposition, an announcement on state TV said the upcoming election will eliminate voters' ability to cast multiple ballots for candidates and sets a one-vote-per-person rule.
It is unclear, however, whether this will undercut the rising influence of Islamists and tribal groups that also accuse the ruling family of abusing its power and failing to reverse the country's economic slide in the past decades as rivals such as Dubai have become international hubs.
Kuwait has not faced widespread unrest since the Arab Spring uprisings erupted last year across the Middle East, but political battles and labour upheavals have stalled many development plans and rewritten the rules on political dissent.