Kuwaiti protesters storm Parliament

Is the Kuwaiti monarchy at risk? Probably not, but...

Kuwait, the oil-rich monarchy that the US helped rescue from Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, has been resisting political opening ever since.

But tonight, protesters demanding political change made something of a breakthrough, storming the Parliament after baton-wielding police tried to violently disperse a march demanding the resignation of Prime Minister (and royal family member) Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

The boisterous, peaceful crowd occupied parliament for about an hour before dispersing.

The prime minister has been the target of public anger for failing to contain corruption, and the country has witnessed sporadic protests since the spring. But this certainly feels different.

To be sure, they weren't calling for the downfall of the monarchy or the "regime" (as the more popular Arab protest slogan usually puts it), but this was a pretty stunning challenge to state authority, nonetheless. There were dozens of video recording devices on participants, and you can bet they'll be filling computer screens in Kuwait and around the Gulf come morning. 

Will this protest embolden more Kuwaitis to take to the streets? Will the Sabah family react with a heavy hand, or perhaps offer up the prime minister in the hopes that this will all go away? We'll see. Unlike a country like Egypt or Syria, the Kuwaiti royal family's brimming coffers and relatively small population makes buying off the public a possibility. (Though about 3 million live in the country, only 1 million are citizens.)

Unlike Bahrain, the only Gulf oil monarchy to be seriously threatened in the Arab uprisings, demographics are also in the royal family's favor. While Bahrain's majority Shiite population are ruled by a Sunni monarch, Kuwait's Sunni monarch reigns over a predominantly Sunni population. 

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