Kuwait political rifts widen on path to elections

By Hussain Al-qatari

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 18 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The stunned establishment tried to turn back the clock. The emir disbanded the opposition-led parliament and challenged voting district changes that appeared to give anti-government forces an edge. A court in September tossed out the government appeal and set in motion the stumble toward new elections that are widely expected to fall in the oppositions' favor.

Under Kuwait's rules, the emir has to set the date for elections by early December — 60 days after disbanding parliament.

Opposition groups worry, however, that the government could try to amend the voting rules to give them an edge.

Earlier this week, protesters chanted against any attempts to stage a "robbery" of their rights. In the crowd, too, were signs of unusual alliances developing: Liberal-minded Kuwaitis who have sided — for the moment — with the Islamists and other traditional factions.

They are deeply at odds over social issues such as dating, music and women's rights. Liberal groups loudly denounced efforts by Islamists to censor art and books deemed offensive to Islam. But some liberals are drawn to the Islamists call for sweeping political reforms and allegations that the monarchy is corrupt and out of touch.

Bassam Al-Asoussi, a member of the liberal Democratic Forum political bloc, believes many liberals will regret throwing their support behind Islamists if they return to control parliament and begin to push for tighter social controls and anti-Western measures.

"Yes, the government has many shortcomings indeed, but (the opposition leaders) aren't the people who will save the country," he said. "They are regressive, not progressive.."

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