* Protest against changes to voting rules on eve of poll
* Emir says amendments needed to improve electoral system
* Opposition politicians boycotting Dec. 1 election
By Sylvia Westall
KUWAIT, Nov 30 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 U.S. 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
favour 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
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
The last parliament was dissolved in June after a court
The opposition has won the backing of youth groups who have
already helped to organise 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 authorised 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 recognise the next government and its
parliament," former opposition MP Musallam al-Barrak said on
Thursday according to Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai.
Kuwait's parliament has legislative powers and the ability
to question ministers. But the Al-Sabah family, which has ruled
Kuwait for 250 years, holds important levers of power.
With the opposition MPs opting out, the incoming parliament
will include many political newcomers, and it remains to be seen
whether it will go along with the cabinet or challenge it.
An assembly elected on a low turnout may aggravate tensions
on the street, diplomats and analysts say.
Opposition MPs won around two-thirds of the 50-seat National
Assembly in February and formed a bloc which put pressure on the
government, forcing two cabinet ministers out of office.
The power struggle has held up investment and economic
The government says opposition MPs are uncooperative and use
the parliament to settle scores, rather than helping pass laws
to help development. Opposition MPs accuse the government of
mismanagement and have called for an elected cabinet.