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Kuwait reinstates old parliament after annulling 2022 vote

Kuwaiti parliament members attend a session of the National Assembly on January 10, 2023
— Kuwait City (AFP)

Kuwait's constitutional court on Sunday nullified last year's legislative elections and ruled to reinstate the previous parliament, state media said, as a political crisis roils the oil-rich Gulf state.

The ruling was made due to discrepancies in the decree dissolving the previous parliament, the official KUNA news agency said.

The September polls were the most inclusive in a decade, and saw opposition members take a parliamentary majority with 28 out of 50 seats.

Many in the opposition had stayed out of elections in the past decade, over what they saw as alleged meddling in parliament by the executive authorities.

"The Kuwaiti Constitutional Court issued a verdict on Sunday annulling the results of the 2022 National Assembly elections," KUNA said.

It also ruled to reinstate the parliament that was elected in 2020 but dissolved following orders by the crown prince in June, KUNA said.

"The dissolved council, from the date of issuance of this ruling... will regain its constitutional authority, as though it was never dissolved," president of the Constitutional Court Mohammad bin Naji told lawyers and journalists.

Marzouq al-Ghanim returns as parliament speaker, a position he had held since 2013 but lost in last year's poll. He replaces Ahmed al-Saadoun.

Lawyer Nawaf al-Yassin said Sunday's ruling followed several electoral appeals.

"The appeals relate to the invalidity of the electoral process, the decrees calling for elections, and the decree dissolving the previous National Assembly," he told AFP.

- 'Incorrect' -

Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament. One of the world's biggest oil exporters, it adopted a parliamentary system in 1962.

But repeated political crises have led to state paralysis and regular disputes with cabinet.

In January, Kuwait's government resigned three months after it was sworn in due to disputes with lawmakers. It was the sixth government in just three years.

Sunday's ruling by the constitutional court was welcomed by lawmakers who will now return to their posts, including Saadoun Hammad al-Otaibi.

"The ruling indicates that the Kuwaiti judiciary is impartial, despite attempts by some to cast doubt on it," said Otaibi, who filed an appeal after losing his parliamentary seat. "I expected the elections to be invalidated".

But lawmakers ousted from their posts by the latest decision were critical.

"The dissolution of parliament is an incorrect move," said Walid al-Tabtabai, arguing that the constitutional court does not have the prerogative to undertake such a move.

"Lawmakers should not give in to this decision and the 2022 parliament should resume its work," he said in a video posted on Twitter. "The return of parliament is inevitable."

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