KUWAIT: A controversial amendments to the election law that bar those convicted of insulting religion and the Amir of contesting parliamentary elections have become effective after their publication yesterday in the official gazette Al-Kuwait Al-Youm. The publication came after the Cabinet endorsed the amendments following its approval by the National Assembly with a massive majority last week and after the Amir signed the law.

The amendments state that "people convicted in a final court order of insulting the Almighty Allah, the prophets and the Amir are barred from contesting parliamentary polls". The ban is expected to include dozens of opposition leaders and activists who have been handed jail terms for insulting the Amir and undermining his authority.

These include prominent opposition leader and former MP Mussallam Al-Barrak who is serving his second year of a two-year term for insulting the Amir at a public rally. Three former opposition MPs, Khaled Al-Tahous, Falah Al-Sawwagh and Bader Al-Dahum will likely be affected by the ban. They were handed a suspended jail term for insulting the Amir. Activists and groups strongly criticized the law as "political death" and "political exclusion" and appealed to the Amir to reject it.

A number of Kuwaiti opposition groups met a few days ago and said the new law is not in line of the constitution and called for rejecting it. But a number of MPs defended the legislation as necessary to safeguard the country against coup plots targeting the regime. The amendments also state that if the elections are held in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, as are expected next year, voting will commence from midday to midnight, to avoid extremely high temperatures, instead of the normal voting hours of 8.00 am to 8.00 pm.