[QODLink]
Middle East
Bahraini king proposes constitutional reforms
Modest restrictions offered on ruler's ability to dissolve parliament and appoint members to the Shura Council.
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2012 12:08
 

The king of Bahrain has proposed constitutional reforms which he said will strengthen the parliament and limit the powers of the royal family.

In a speech delivered on Sunday, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa promised "new safeguards" to limit his ability to dissolve the lower house of parliament: He would have to consult with leaders of both houses, and the head of the constitutional court, before dismissing lawmakers.

The reforms would also require Khalifa to issue a "royal order" explaining the process for appointing members of the Shura Council, the 40-member upper house, which is entirely appointed by the king.

Parliament would also play a larger role in determining the state budget, and the lower house would have the right to "question and withdraw confidence from ministers," who are also appointed by the king.

Al-Wefaq's Khalil al Marzooq says the changes King Hamad is calling for "can be done outside the constitution with bylaws".

All of these changes are in proposed constitutional amendments which Khalifa said will be transmitted to the parliament.

"The proposed amendments bring greater harmony in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, in order to achieve a better balance between them," the king said in his speech.

The speech was quickly panned by members of Al Wefaq, the largest opposition party in Bahrain. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdul Jalil Khalil described the reforms as "cosmetic," and demanded a fully elected legislature.

Activists admit that some of the proposed reforms are modest steps in the right direction, but complain the king is moving far too slowly.

"People very clearly wanted an elected government, they want parliament that has actual power," said Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in Manama. "If we go into this detail, and go step by step... it's going to be 100 years before an elected parliament has power."

Anti-government protests continue across the island kingdom, nearly a year after the current uprising began.

At least 13 people were reportedly injured by police during a protest in Manama on Friday.

Matar Ibrahim, a former member of parliament from Al Wefaq, accused police of firing tear gas canisters at the protesters.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.