Thousands of Kuwaiti protesters called on Wednesday for the resignation of the prime minister and the government over an alleged corruption scandal involving several MPs.
In one of the strongest show of force, more than 5,000 protesters attended the opposition-sponsored rally in the capital Kuwait City amid tight security measures by hundreds of policemen and elite special forces.
“For the sake and interests of this country, we urge the emir to dismiss the prime minister immediately,” said Islamist opposition MP Faisal al-Muslim as the crowds chanted: “Go out.”
The opposition has been campaigning for the removal of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the Al-Sabah ruling family and a nephew of the emir.
“If the era of Sheikh Nasser does not end, corruption will grow bigger. This case has tarnished the image of the regime and the country,” Muslim told one of the biggest rallies in Kuwait in years.
The rally was called by Islamist, liberal and nationalist groups who altogether have more than 20 MPs in the 50-seat parliament, to press for stern action against lawmakers who allegedly received bribes.
Veteran opposition figure MP Ahmad al-Saadun said the rally was organised to “send a message to the leaders (of the country) that corruption in the country has reached its limit.”
“Corruption has become so widespread and the prime minister must leave,” said the former three-time parliament speaker, who earlier estimated the sums received by MPs at round $350 million.
Saadun said he will file to grill in parliament the prime minister and the ministers of defence, interior and foreign affairs, all senior members of the ruling family.
Kuwait’s public prosecution last week launched an investigation into the bank accounts of at least nine MPs who have allegedly received huge deposits during the past few months.
Hundreds of youth activists demonstrated on Friday, demanding fundamental reform including a constitutional monarch and action against corruption.
Corruption has been on the rise in this oil-rich Gulf state which amassed more than $200 billion of budget surpluses over the past 12 fiscal years, thanks to high crude price.
Between 2003 and 2009, the emirate slipped 31 places to 66th position on the Berlin-based Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index among 178 nations.
In 2010, however, it improved 12 places to the 54th position but still came last among the six-nation energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), behind Saudi Arabia.