(Bloomberg) --

Kuwait’s constitutional court annulled the results of last year’s parliamentary elections and reinstated the former National Assembly, potentially rekindling a long-running political dispute that had hindered decision-making in the OPEC member.

The shock ruling, issued Sunday, threw out September’s vote because the court considered the decree dissolving the last parliament invalid. The assembly from 2020 was reinstated, prompting some Kuwaitis to express a loss of faith in the political system, which features the most powerful elected parliament in the Gulf.

“A citizen elects an authority that represents him so that the second authority decides to annul his choices because of the mistakes of the third authority,” Bader Alghanim, a Kuwaiti opposition activist, said on Twitter.

Kuwaiti politics has for years been defined by continuous clashes between elected lawmakers and cabinets installed by the ruling Al-Sabah family. The squabbling and uncertainty has deterred foreign investment, delayed crucial fiscal reform and stymied efforts to diversify the oil-reliant economy.

Read more: Oil Money Can’t Buy Progress for Gulf’s Laggard State Kuwait

There have been a number of challenges against the September vote, which saw a win for opposition and conservative lawmakers. The ruling deals a blow to the loosely-aligned opposition, which carried out a decade-long boycott of all Kuwaiti elections until last year.

Sunday’s ruling will likely lead to the resumption of a crisis between opposition lawmakers and former parliament speaker Marzouq Alghanim, who wasted little time in updating his Twitter profile to show his reinstatement. The previous dispute eventually precipitated the dissolving of parliament in 2022.

Kuwait’s parliament has now been dissolved 12 times, including through two previous court rulings, since the first National Assembly elections in 1963. The country previously had a so-called constitutional assembly.

“How much faith is left of the Kuwaiti people in the 1962 constitution, and in the usefulness of popular political participation on its basis?” social-media commentator Hamad Al-Jasser asked on Twitter. 

Others said the court decision should be respected, and that it upheld the rule of law.

“Protecting the constitution is a priority, and the integrity of the elections is a safety valve for democracy,” lawmaker Jenan Bushehri, one of only two women elected to parliament last year, said on Twitter. Respecting the results is more important than holding a position in the assembly, she added.

Kuwait’s cabinet resigned in January less than four months after being appointed, as it tried to out-maneuver lawmakers seeking to pass legislation that ministers said would strain state finances. One of the disputed bills included a proposal for the government to buy billions of dinars worth of citizens’ consumer loans.

“It’s deja vu all over again” tweeted Abdullah Al-Shayji, a political science professor at Kuwait University. “Repeated dissolution and annulment of half of parliaments, and the resignation of cabinets deepen political tensions and frustration,” he said, calling for a high commission for elections.

(Updates with comments and adds background.)

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