Kuwaitis Tense Ahead of Elections

Two days of campaign-related unrest has prompted Kuwait's interior ministry to as candidates to suspend rallies on the eve of elections.

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Gabe Kahn.,

Kuwait City
Kuwait City
CC/Mohammad Alatar

Officials in Kuwait on Wednesday cancelled a major political rally on the eve of elections hoping to put an end to an unprecedented rash of violent incidents that has marred electoral campaigns.

A large rally scheduled by candidate Ali Al Rashed to bring together various forces on the eve of the elections was cancelled after the interior ministry told him it had "credible information" that there would be attempts to mar the event and "create chaos and confusion."

"The objective of the rally was to protect our national unity and reject any attacks on a tribe or a segment of our society," Al Rashed said in a statement.

"However, we have decided to cancel it following reports from the interior ministry that it would be used by some elements to stir up trouble and compound the tense situation. We do require everyone to exercise the highest levels of self-control and to remain calm," he said.

Kuwait, the first Persian Gulf nation to have a directly elected parliament, was rocked by two days of violence on Monday and Tuesday.

Clashes between demonstrators and anti-riot police were accompanied by arson, and the storming of a television station by protesters.

The interior ministry said that at least 20 people were arrested for their role in the storming of Al Watan TV and clashing with the police. The radical Al Dar daily was also shut down for two weeks.

Kuwait’s previous government collapsed in September amid a corruption scandal that widened into a vote and influence buying probe of 15 lawmakers.

Opposition leaders allege an estimated at $350 million in public funds went missing, some of which was used to secure votes on crucial issues, including motions of no-confidence against the premier and his ministers.

The accusation led protesters to storm Kuwait's parliament decrying corruption and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

Sheikh Nasser and his cabinet resigned shortly thereafter, prompting Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad to appoint a caretaker cabinet to oversee new elections and run the nation in the interim.

Nasser, a nephew of the emir, was appointed to the post in February 2006 and has so far resigned seven times since then due to political turmoil and corruption allegations. Regional observers say his resignation may, yet again, be temporary.

Most candidates standing for elections Thursday ran on anti-corruption, reform, and economic prosperity platforms.

Should, after the elections, the new parliament be unable to form a government, the cabinet of Sheikh Nasser will be reinstated under Kuwait's constitution.