New rules to quiz Bahraini officials on way
Manama, June 4, 2014
Bahrain's Parliamentarians have voted in favour of limiting their own power after approving a change in the way that they are allowed to question government ministers.
Previously, a minister could be summoned to parliament if only a majority of MPs voted in favour of the request, but under the government-drafted amendment to parliament's by-laws approved yesterday an absolute majority is now required, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
In real terms, this means that 27 out of a total of 40 MPs must vote in favour of questioning before a minister can be summoned, despite the fact that only 21 MPs are required for a vote to take place.
According to the new rules, a commission must also be formed to study whether the suggested question is "valid" before it is put to the vote.
Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa explained that the amendment would not prevent ministers from being questioned, but was designed instead to put an end to certain government officials being targeted.
"Ministers have no immunity and MPs have every right to question them, but the current format is wrong and causes disruption between parliament and the government," he said.
"The questions to be put to a minister have to be first studied by a commission which will determine if they are valid or not, because sometimes one or two blocs try to target a minister or damage his reputation.
"If the majority of parliament says that a minister should be questioned, then the government will certainly realise there is something wrong with that individual - even if questioning does not take place - and action will be taken."
Parliament legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Ali Al Ateesh described the new rules as a "setback" that would effectively see MPs operating with their "hands tied".
"So we have to a form a commission and then two-thirds of us are needed for it to go ahead? This clearly shows that no minister will be questioned," he said.
Meanwhile, parliament's foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairwoman Sawsan Taqawi said the amendment would ensure personal factors do not come into play when a request to question a particular minister is presented.
"It will ensure that it is the whole of parliament that wants to question a particular minister and not just some individuals, blocs or political societies," she said.
Parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Hassan Al Dossary concurred with Taqawi that the change would bring an end to what he described as "foul play".
"We have seen in the past some MPs questioning ministers just for the sake of damaging their reputation, even if they don't have a valid reason.
"We don't want to see this repeated," he said.
Parliament's decision to limit its own power in this way comes a day after former MP Ibrahim Busandal appeared in the GDN, urging Sunni political groups to "think twice" before contesting this year's upcoming parliamentary elections.
The Al Asala Islamic Society senior member said there was no point in representing the public in parliament because it was "powerless". - TradeArabia News Service