Kuwait has banned public gatherings of more than 20 people and says police have the power to disperse unauthorized crowds.

The decision is a sign of deepening tensions between the Gulf nation's Western-allied rulers and opposition factions led by Islamists.

The order limiting the public gatherings was published Tuesday in Kuwait newspapers.

It comes after riot police used tear gas in clashes with thousands of demonstrators on Sunday protesting changes in voting rules for parliamentary elections Dec. 1.

Kuwait has the most politically empowered parliament among the Gulf Arab states and the election is a critical test for the ruling family and their backers.

Opposition lawmakers took control of parliament in February elections, but the government has dropped rules allowing multiple vote-casting for candidates that appeared to favor Islamist blocs.