KUWAIT, (Reuters) – At least five protesters were arrested and several injured in Kuwait as police tried to break up an opposition protest late on Monday, witnesses said.
Authorities had asked opposition lawmakers to call off the demonstration over political reforms, but at least 5,000 people gathered in a square near parliament that has been the site of several anti-government protests since last year.
Although major oil producer Kuwait has not experienced the mass Arab Spring protests seen elsewhere across the region, tensions have escalated between an elected parliament and a cabinet chosen by the prime minister, who is appointed by the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
Monday’s protesters, who included opposition politicians and political activists, called on the emir to set a date for upcoming parliamentary elections. They have voiced concern that Kuwait may change its electoral law in a way that would favour pro-government candidates.
Witnesses at the protest, where riot police were deployed, said they saw five protestors arrested. Several people, including police, were injured when demonstrators clashed with police as they tried to spread into a barricaded street.
Security is tighter than usual in Kuwait as the country hosts Asian leaders for a summit. The palace appealed to opposition lawmakers earlier this week to call off the protest.
Although U.S ally Kuwait has the most open political system in a region ruled by autocratic families that tolerate little dissent, the ruling al-Sabah family dominates politics.
Sheikh Sabah ordered the dissolution of parliament last week after months of political deadlock. Under the constitution, elections need to be held within 60 days of dissolution.
Political tensions have held up development and economic reforms in Kuwait, one of the richest countries in the world per capita. The dissolution of parliament is the sixth since Sheikh Sabah came to power six years ago and there have been 10 cabinets.