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Kuwaiti voters headed to the polls Thursday to elect a new parliament, the first election since the country’s new emir assumed power late last year and dissolved the government in a bid to end years of political deadlock in the oil-rich Gulf nation, Reuters reported.

Thursday’s vote will see more than 200 independent candidates compete for the country’s 50-seat legislature. Political parties are banned in Kuwait.

Kuwait is made up of five electoral districts, each with 10 lawmakers. The candidates who win the top 10 positions in each district win the parliamentary seats.

The polls came a few months after Emir Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber succeeded his brother in December. Soon after the succession, the new monarch criticized the legislative and executive branches, saying they were “harming the interests of the country and its people.”

His comments referred to years-long feuding between Kuwait’s appointed executive branch and the legislature that has hindered fiscal reforms, including the passing of a debt law that would allow the Gulf nation to tap international markets and mitigate its heavy dependence on oil revenues.

In February, Sheikh Meshal dissolved parliament, citing the legislature’s “violation of the constitutional principles” as a reason for his decision.

Thursday’s elections will be the fourth in Kuwait since December 2020.

Business analysts told Reuters that Sheikh Meshal’s move is part of an effort to speed up reforms rather than engaging in negotiations between the opposition, political groups and grassroots organizations.

Unlike other Gulf monarchies, Kuwait’s parliament has real influence, including the power to pass or block bills, question ministers and initiate no-confidence motions.

Although this system makes it prone to political deadlock, observers noted that the country’s emir holds the ultimate authority.

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