* Some 1,500 gather outside parliament
* Protest over possible changes to electoral boundaries
* Government wants top court to rule on the issue
By Sylvia Westall
KUWAIT, Sept 10 Around 1,500 Kuwaitis took part
in a rally late on Monday to protest against possible changes in
the electoral law and call for more democracy.
The crowd, which included opposition lawmakers and political
activists, gathered outside parliament in a square which has
hosted several anti-government demonstrations since late last
Monday's turnout was smaller than previous rallies in the
major oil producer and there was only a light police presence.
Kuwait's Interior Ministry said on Sunday it would act
firmly against any "unlicensed" protests in the country and said
calls for a sit-in at Erada Square undermined security and
threatened public order.
While the U.S ally and OPEC member state has not had the
kind of mass popular uprisings seen elsewhere in the Arab
region, political tensions have escalated between the
hand-picked government and elected parliament.
"Our problem is with the government. We like the emir, we
all do," Suleman Mohammed, who is retired from the army, said.
"We want a little more democracy, more freedom, more
While Kuwait has one of the most open political systems in
the Gulf, the head of the ruling family, Emir Sheikh Sabah
al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, has the final say in political matters.
He chooses the prime minister who in turn picks a cabinet,
with important positions held by al-Sabah family members.
It is a government appeal to Kuwait's top court which is at
the heart of the latest political tension.
The cabinet has asked the constitutional court to rule on
the 2006 electoral law which divides the country into five
constituencies. It says the verdict is needed to protect the
outcome of future elections from possible legal challenges.
But some opposition figures say this is a bid to abolish the
current boundaries and gerrymander victory in elections expected
this year or next. The court is due to rule on the government's
petition later this month.
The court drew the anger of protesters earlier this year
when it effectively dissolved the opposition-dominated 2012
parliament and reinstated a more government-friendly assembly.
"The government plays with our democratic system. There are
people behind the government, controlling it," said a
33-year-old government ministry employee who gave his name as
He said he was referring to divisions within the ruling
family and competition between other powerful families.
"Kuwait is like a cake and everyone wants a piece," he
added. "Twenty years ago Kuwait was number one in the region,
there was no Dubai, no Qatar. Now it is in last place."
Years of political infighting have stalled investment in
Kuwait, which is one of the richest countries in the world per
capita thanks to its oil wealth and small population.
Speakers at the rally, who included Islamists and tribal
members of parliament, renewed opposition calls for an elected
government. Political parties are banned in Kuwait so lawmakers
form blocs in parliament based around tribal ties and policy.
Turnout at the height of protests last year over political
corruption peaked at tens of thousands and during one rally
protesters stormed parliament.
(Editing by Alison Williams)