October 22, 2012 - 10:45 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Police in Kuwait used teargas, stun grenades and baton charges on Sunday, Oct 21, to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting against changes to the electoral law which the opposition has called a constitutional coup by the government, Reuters reported.
Demonstrators gathered in various parts of the capital, Kuwait City, to march towards the government's headquarters, but riot police swiftly surrounded some groups and used teargas and stun grenades to disperse them, witnesses said.
A medical source said at least 29 people had been admitted to hospital, most of them suffering from teargas inhalation or from baton bruises. At least 15 people, including two former MPs and a reporter, were detained. An opposition activist estimated that up to 50,000 people had gathered in different locations.
The opposition decided to take to the streets after the government - which is dominated by the ruling Al-Sabah family - announced last week it was calling elections for December 1 and would change the electoral law "to preserve national unity".
The announcement was the latest move in an intensifying power struggle between the ruling establishment and parliament that has seen eight governments come and go since the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, came to power in 2006.
The 83-year-old dissolved parliament on October 7. It was the sixth time the oil-rich state and key U.S. ally had disbanded its legislature since early 2006. Its oil wealth and a generous welfare state have helped Kuwait avoid the kind of "Arab Spring" protests that toppled leaders elsewhere in the region.
Before Sunday's protest got underway, the authorities had promised to "decisively confront" demonstrators.
Witnesses said protesters who had initially been dispersed later regrouped to form a crowd estimated at more than 20,000 at a main road near Kuwait Towers, a seaside landmark in the Gulf oil producer.