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Bahrain MPs back statute changes

Manama, February 17, 2012

Bahrain's members of parliament yesterday voted in principle to accept a raft of key constitutional amendments proposed by His Majesty King Hamad.

However, due to conflict about whether to accept them unconditionally or seek amendments, discussions were postponed for four weeks, said a report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.

Thirty MPs voted in favour of the amendments, with MPs Osama Al Tamimi and Mohammed Buqais voting against, while MP Ali Shamtoot abstained during an extraordinary parliament session.

Parliament's legislative and legal affairs committee has now been tasked with revising the amendments and arranging for a second special extraordinary session with parliament's general secretariat.

Committee chairman Ahmed Al Mulla said the amendments were important because they would ensure more power to the people.

"The amendments as a collection are in line with the principles of the National Action Charter, but he (His Majesty) had to make changes to make them better and up to people's expectations," he said.

Parliament first vice-chairman Abdulla Al Dossary said three weeks was not long enough to study the amendments.

"We are not here dealing with regular laws or proposals, we are here dealing with the Constitution that has everything revolving around it as the core," Al Dossary added.

His comments were backed up by parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Hassan Al Dossary.

"The committee has rushed the amendments and it should have taken more time considering that those articles would change a lot of things within the legislative and executive authorities and the way they deal with each other," he said.

But parliament legal consultant Dr Saleh Al Gateet said the 22 days given to the committee had just been for initial feedback and MPs would be able to take more time to study the amendments.

Parliament services committee vice-chairman Dr Jamal Saleh said the amendments were a strong response to the doubters who view parliament as a failure.

MP Khalid Abdulaal said the committee had robbed several articles proposed by the King of their strength. "Yes, there are minor positives within the committee's direction to make changes, but we have to take into consideration that people are the source of power, and amendments should be in that line," Abdulaal said.

But Al Tamimi claimed the amendments did not go far enough. "Those amendments are below people's expectations," he said.

"Today, people want a parliament with full powers, not some parliament that follows orders and doesn't represent voters' will," he added.

Buqais said MPs were not up to the challenge of coming up with more constitutional amendments. "Fifteen MPs can easily propose amendments to certain articles, but parliament just waits to be dictated on what to do and people today want a parliament with full powers and MPs are not doing anything in that regard," Buqais added.

Proposed amendments include making it compulsory for the heads of parliament, Shura Council and Constitutional Court to be consulted before parliament is dissolved. Presently only the King and the Prime Minister have power to dissolve parliament.

Other amendments include allowing parliament to veto government programmes, pass votes of no confidence in Cabinet ministers and prompt their resignation. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Constitution | MPs |

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