Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Election furor stirs signs of Arab Spring in oil-rich Kuwait

Protests and divisions in the small, peaceful, oil-rich country, including calls to boycott tomorrow’s ballot, may have repercussions in the rest of the region

By Ian Black  /  The Guardian, KUWAIT CITY

Liberals and nationalists are quick to lambast the Muslim Brotherhood — known in Kuwait as the Islamic Constitutional Movement — and accuse it of conspiring to create a new caliphate under the orders of the new Egyptian government. However, the claims seem wildly exaggerated and Western diplomats privately dismiss them.

“There is an Islamist presence, but they are very pragmatic,” said Ghanima al-Oteibi, a secular student leader.

“The Kuwaiti government is attacking the Ikhwan [Brotherhood] because they need Gulf support,” former minister Saad al-Ajmi said.

Turnout in tomorrow’s election will be crucial in determining whether the new parliament enjoys sufficient legitimacy, or whether, in the words of one skeptic, it is just a “Mickey Mouse assembly.”

Whatever the outcome, it is hard to see how the country’s underlying tensions can be resolved any time soon.

“Kuwait is different, but we are not isolated from what is happening around us elsewhere in the Arab world,” the female business executive said. “The Sabah have always ruled by consensus, but now it is breaking down.”

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