Riots rock Jordan, protests shake Kuwait

Angry protests exploded throughout Jordan on the night of Nov. 13, after the government announced an increase in fuel prices. Demonstrators burned tires, smashed traffic lights and blocked roads in several cities, as riot police responded with tear gas.  In Dhiban, a city of 15,000 south of the capital, Amman, protesters burned pictures of King Abdullah II—defying laws imposing a prison term for criticizing the king. In Salt, which has been a focus of popular discontent, protesters destroyed two cars outside the prime minister’s home, which was empty. And in Amman, thousands filled the circle outside the Interior Ministry near midnight, chanting, "Revolution, revolution," and "The people want the fall of the regime"—slogans made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. The fuel price hike is part of an effort to close the country's growing budget deficit and secure a $2 billion IMF loan. (RIA-Novosti, Nov. 14; NYT, Nov. 13)

Two days earlier, tens of thousands rallied peacefully in Kuwait to mark the 50th anniversary of the constitution and to demand the repeal of a disputed electoral law. The enthusiastic crowds chanted "The people want the repeal of the law," refering to a new measure ordered by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to change the voting system ahead of the December parliamentary vote. Under the previous law, Kuwaiti voters were able to pick up to four candidates, but that has now been reduced to only one. Organizers estimated the gathering at around 200,000 people, which would be the largest rally in Kuwait's history, but authorities put the number at around 50,000.

While this march was peaceful, more than 150 protesters and 24 police have been injured in violence at three demonstrations in Kuwait since Oct. 21. The opposition has called for a boycott of the election if the new measure is not repealed. The upcoming vote is the second this year and the fifth since 2006, with the oil-rich Gulf state locked in an ongoing political crisis between parliament and the ruling al-Sabah family. (Middle East Online, Nov. 11)