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Bahrain’s MPs may need to hold degrees

Manama, January 23, 2012

Bahrain’s new constitutional amendments include a new article that states all parliamentary candidates should hold at least a Bachelor's degree or equivalent before they can run for election.

This could force 17 MPs back to class if they want to hold onto their seats at the next election.

However, the head of the parliamentary committee now reviewing the amendments said he expected MPs to object to the clause.

The proposed constitutional amendments, announced last week by His Majesty King Hamad, have already been referred to parliament - which held its first discussions on them yesterday.

They were outlined in a "special extraordinary session" led by parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani, who is currently in his third consecutive term as an MP.

He is understood to be among 17 serving MPs who would be ineligible to run for parliament in 2014 if they do not obtain a degree or equivalent, if that particular amendment stands.

The constitutional amendments have now been referred to parliament's legislative and legal affairs committee for revision.

It is expected to have a full-scale meeting to discuss the historic changes on Wednesday.

During yesterday's special extraordinary session, Al Dhahrani said parliament's current term would go down in history for heralding a new era of democracy.

"We have an opportunity to make history by approving those amendments to the constitution, which will certainly give Bahrain a huge step forward," he said in a speech. "The National Assembly has to complete revising and studying those amendments as soon as possible in line with the King's directives."

Council legislative and legal affairs committee chairman Ahmed Al Mulla said he expected MPs to oppose at least one of the amendments - the requirement to have a degree or equivalent to run for election.

"There may be opposition to one amendment and that's the new education criteria, since 17 MPs don't have them," he said. "But that would be discussed in the committee and a recommendation on it will be submitted to Al Dhahrani. In the end, votes on the open floor will determine how the amendments progress, but from what I see the Royal directives are welcome among the majority (of MPs).

"On Wednesday, we will be working more than hard because we have to beat time in having those amendments approved and passed to the Shura Council before ratification by the King."

Another amendment previously unannounced states that prospective MPs granted Bahraini nationality must have the passport for a minimum of five years and should not possess dual GCC citizenship before running.

Meanwhile, if an MP's seat becomes vacant, the candidate who came second would take over within 15 days of the official announcement.

If there was no replacement, elections should be held within two months.

A key amendment says that if 20 MPs propose a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister, it must be referred to parliament's general-secretariat and there should be a gap of seven days before the issue is discussed on parliament's open floor.

If two-thirds of parliament voted in favour of the motion, the King could either dissolve the Cabinet or parliament.

Proposed amendments that were announced last week include making it compulsory for the heads of parliament, Shura Council and Constitutional Court to be consulted before parliament is dissolved.

Currently, the King and the Prime Minister have power to dissolve parliament.

They also include allowing parliament to veto government programmes; pass votes of no confidence in Cabinet ministers and even prompt their resignation; question ministers on parliament's open floor; add criteria for the selection of Shura Council members; and shift the balance of power from the Shura Council - the appointed upper chamber of the National Assembly - to elected members of parliament (the lower chamber).

They also grant MPs more control of the state budget and introduce mechanisms to improve the legislative process, including extending parliamentary sessions if necessary. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Cabinet | Parliament | Shura Council | MP | Degree | Bachelor |

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