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Ghanem returns as speaker as top court reinstates old parliament

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: In a bombshell ruling, the constitutional court on Sunday annulled last year’s parliamentary elections, dealing a severe blow to the Kuwaiti opposition which scored a landslide victory in those elections. The court also reinstated the previous National Assembly which was dissolved by HH the Amir last year ahead of the parliamentary polls due to continued disputes between the government and the parliament.

The verdict means Marzouq Al-Ghanem will resume his duties as speaker of the Assembly with immediate effect, replacing veteran opposition leader Ahmad Al-Saadoun. It also means all MPs elected in the 2020 elections are reinstated with full constitutional powers. The court, whose verdicts are final, decided to “annul the entire election process” held on Sept 29 last year, adding the membership of the elected MPs is “null and void”.

The court ruled on four petitions challenging the validity of the election process, filed by former MPs who failed to get re-elected. The verdict said the Amiri decree that dissolved the previous National Assembly and a second that invited Kuwaiti voters to elect a new parliament were both “invalid” and not in line with the constitution. The court also ordered that the previous parliament be “reinstated” and that it regains its full constitutional powers with immediate effect.

Ghanem immediately changed his title on his official Twitter account to state “Speaker of the National Assembly” while some reinstated MPs like Saadoun Hammad said they will go back to their offices.

This is the third time in Kuwait’s parliamentary history that the constitutional court has decided to scrap the election results. The first two occasions were in 2012 and 2013. But this is the first time the court decided to reinstate the dissolved Assembly. Sunday’s shock ruling came after the same court turned down petitions against two other Amiri decrees issued ahead of the elections regarding the use of civil IDs to prove the residential address of voters and adding new residential areas to the five constituencies.

That ruling was believed to be enough for the election to be constitutional – until Sunday’s verdict. Explaining the justification for its ruling, the court said the Amiri decree dissolving the Assembly was recommended by a new government that was just one day old and based its decision on continued disputes between the government and MPs.

It added that there was a very short time for the government in office to decide whether there were disputes with MPs, and accordingly, this reason is unacceptable. The court said as a result, the decree is invalid. Some experts and commentators however expected the return of disputes between opposition MPs on one hand and the government and the speaker and his supporters on the other.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Kuwait University political science professor Abdullah Al-Shayeji on Twitter, in a reference to his expectations that disputes will return. “Repeating the process of dissolving and nullifying assemblies and the resignation of the governments will only deepen the political standoff and frustration. We need a higher commission for elections,” Shayeji said.

There were no immediate comments from Saadoun and leading opposition figures on the verdict. The court’s decision means that 27 MPs who were members of the previous Assembly will return to their seats, replacing 27 members of the dissolved Assembly. MPs and former MPs had mixed reactions to the ruling. MP Hammad, who lost in the Sept 22 polls, welcomed the ruling and praised the court. “The ruling indicates that the Kuwaiti judiciary is impartial, despite attempts by some to cast doubt on it,” said Otaibi. “I expected the elections to be invalidated”.

MP Ahmad Al-Hamad, who also lost his seat in last year’s elections, said the ruling is a victory for the constitution. MP Farz Al-Mutairi, who failed to get re-elected last year, said the ruling implemented the provisions of the constitution. MP Fayez Al-Jamhour said he will submit a proposal on Monday calling to establish a higher election commission to be responsible for these issues. MP Saud Al-Asfour said he will continue to serve the people from any position.

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