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Kuwait emir orders electoral system changes

(Reuters) – Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah said on Friday the Gulf Arab state’s electoral system was deficient and that he had ordered partial changes, a move likely to anger the opposition.

Sheikh Sabah dissolved the parliament of the major oil producer and U.S. ally earlier this month. Opposition figures, who won a parliamentary majority in an election in February, have said they fear the cabinet will try to push through new voting rules that could help pro-government candidates.

“I have directed the government to issue a draft law to make partial amendments to the electoral system, aimed at improving the voting mechanism to preserve national unity and to strengthen the practice of democracy,” the emir said in a speech aired on state television.

Kuwait’s constitutional court had issued a ruling that allows for any necessary changes to be made to the country’s electoral system, he said.

The recent political turmoil in Kuwait could lead to “strife that could be about to erupt and destroy our unity, disfigure our identity and tear apart our society into fragmented groups”, he added.

The emir said he had instructed the government to establish a national electoral committee and to organize election campaigns “to guarantee the integrity of the electoral process”.

The changes came only days after a demonstration by some 5,000 people near Kuwait’s parliament in which protesters warned against any changes to the election law.

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