Kuwait opposition groups formed a broad-based coalition, apparently to reinvigorate a sagging protest movement, and demanded fundamental reforms including a multi-party democratic system.

The new alliance, called The Opposition Coalition, brings under one umbrella almost all opposition political groups, including Islamists, liberals, nationalists, trade and student unions, youth activists and civil society groups.

In a joint statement issued yesterday after a meeting that lasted several hours, the new Coalition vowed to fight for a “full parliamentary system based on legalising political parties... and democratic rotation of power.”

While Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy, political parties are illegal in the Gulf state -- though political groupings operate as de facto parties -- and the government is headed by a senior member of the ruling family regardless of the outcome of polls.

“The government should be the result of a fair and free election,” said the Coalition’s statement, in reference to an old demand for the opposition to share power with the Al-Sabah family that has been in power for over 250 years.

The Coalition also called for dissolving the pro-government parliament elected on December 1 amid a total boycott by the opposition in protest against amending the electoral law.

It also demanded fresh polls under the old electoral law.

Kuwait has seen many opposition-led demonstrations in protest against the changes to the law, which opposition groups claimed allowed the government to influence election results and elect a rubber-stamp assembly.

But the size and intensity of opposition demonstrations and gatherings have waned in recent weeks amid continued trials for large numbers of former lawmakers and youth activists.

The government has clamped down on opposition activists, sending dozens of them to court for criticising the emir or taking part in protests. In the past few weeks, a number of Twitter commentators have been sentenced to several years in jail.

OPEC member Kuwait, which produces around three million barrels of oil per day, has been rocked by ongoing political disputes since mid-2006 that have stalled development despite abundant surpluses.

(This article was published on March 4, 2013)
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