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Kuwait opposition demand vote boycott on eve of election

Nov. 30, 2012 10:16 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 30, 2012 10:17 P.M.)
By: Sylvia Westall
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Activists and opposition figures will march in Kuwait on Friday to urge voters to boycott the next day's parliamentary election, dashing any hopes the poll could ease years of political tensions in the US ally and major oil producer.

Opposition politicians, who have already said they will not stand, and campaigners called the rally to protest against a change in voting rules which they argue would skew the poll in favor of pro-government candidates.

The Gulf Arab state has already held four parliamentary votes since 2006, after a series of assemblies collapsed under the weight of a power struggle between elected MPs and the cabinet, appointed by the prime minister who is chosen by the emir.

Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, used emergency powers late October to cut the number of votes per citizen to one from four, saying the change would fix a flawed system and preserve security and stability.

The opposition, a disparate collection of Islamists, liberals and populist politicians whose bloc won a majority in the last election in February, argue the change hit their ability to form alliances.

In the past, candidates have called on their supporters to cast their additional ballots for allies. They say such informal affiliations are crucial in a country where political parties are banned.

The last parliament was dissolved in June after a court ruling.

The opposition has won the backing of youth groups who have already helped to organize a series of protests against the rule change. Previous demonstrations have drawn tens of thousands.

The "Nation's Dignity" march is scheduled to start at around 1200 GMT in various locations in Kuwait City and converge on Kuwait Towers, a major landmark on the northeastern coast of the capital. The government has authorized the march, in a move designed to ease tensions ahead of the poll.

Kuwait has the most open political system among the Gulf Arab states and tolerates more dissent.

Its citizens regularly hold protest rallies outside parliament. But recent marches in the streets beyond, which authorities said were unlicensed, have been broken up by police using teargas, smoke bombs and baton charges.

"We will not recognize the next government and its parliament," former opposition MP Musallam al-Barrak said on Thursday according to Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai.
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