- Bahrain: “Fragile” Constitutional Amendments, boosting up the Crisis, and not resonating locally and internationally
- 1-The Content of the Constitutional Amendments the Extent of its Approach to the Demands of the Opposition
- a.Hypothesis of forming a government that is of a peoples’ will
- b.The possibility of ousting the Prime Minister
- c.The level of the partnership between the ruling family and the parliament
- d. The extent to which the “elected” is empowered over the “appointed” in terms of legislation
- e.The reality of controls in the elected council
- f.The sanctification of the authorities solely in the monetary affairs
- g.The problem of political naturalization
- 2-The Mechanism of Constitutional Amendments
- 3-The Local, Regional, and International Opinion regarding the Constitutional Amendments
- 4-The Ability of the Constitutional Amendments on Containing the Bahraini Matter
- Table of the Constitutional Amendments Approved by the King of Bahrain on May 3, 2012
In the constitutional amendments (1), approved by the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in May 3, 2012, he kept his authorities almost absolute; accordingly he made the current crisis to continue, in consistence with of the opposition’s demands to shrink the authorities of the King, reaching out to the principle “reigns but does not has rule”.
In fact, since 1975, the continuation of the constitutional crisis prominently expressed the political dispute between the ruling Al Khalifa family in Bahrain, and the political opposition parties of various stripes(2).
The rate of tension had increased with the winds of the “Arab spring” approaching to Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya. The tensions started by the people’s demands of a new constitution that is written by a public will through an elected constitutional assembly. The regime considered it as a threat to its influence and power, therefore decided to crackdown on the protests(3).
Observers raise questions about:
-The content of the constitutional amendments and the extent of the amendments’ approach to the opposition demands that are calling for political and constitutional reform;
-The problematical mechanism for approving the constitutional amendments;
-The Position of various local, regional and international parties towards the amendments,
-The ability of the constitutional amendments to take out the country from its devastating crisis since February 14, 2011.
The constitutional amendments were conducted to 20 articles of the already-controversial Constitution of 2002.The official discourse insists on that these amendments have responded to the calls for change called by the protesters at the Pearl Roundabout, and that it positively dealt with the demands of the opposition for constitutional and political reforms. The points below test the validity of that discourse:
A. Hypothesis of forming a government that is of a peoples’ will
Perhaps the most significant amendments which are considered important and essential by the authorities, is the improvement made to (Article 46), concerning the necessity of the Representatives Council agreement on the government’s program for it to be approved, or else the government is to be considered discharge and dismissed in case its program is rejected.
The importance of this amendment, according to the authorities, comes in the supposition that this will outline the opposition’s demand of the right to choose the Prime Minister and to form a government by the largest bloc in the parliament.The rejection of the government’s program – automatically dischargingit, is achieved according to the new text (Article 46), if:
- The program was rejected by two thirds of the members in the Representatives Council.
- This refusal has to be twice in a row: The first time is within thirty days of the program’s submission. The second time is in twenty-one days following the government’s opportunity to make adjustments to its program, in accordance to the observations made by the council’s representatives, the first time.
In case the program was rejected twice, the king must accept the resignation of the ministry. And “The King may dissolve the Assembly or accept the resignation of the ministry and appoint a new one.” But in case it is not rejected, the program is counted in use, as if the government thus gained the confidence of the elected council without accepting the latest its program. That arisen, it is not confidence of the parliament towards the government’s program undermining confidence in the government, rather the rejection is to the government to count only the (cabinet) discharged.
To a large extent, it is difficult to promote that this will make the executive authorities a people-orientated one. Furthermore, it is an explicit response or even an obscured one to the opposition demand of forming an elected government that “express the people’s will”(4), for at least three reasons:
First of all, assigning the head of the government (Prime Minister) and the Ministers will remain exclusiveby the king (according to the Royal Order), and assigning them has no link whatsoever with the parliamentary majority, which is a typical standard adopted in the constitutional monarchies when choosing a prime minister. It is also not relevant even to non-bindingparliamentary consultations and formalities.
Second of all, the government programs are usually formulatedusing the best phrases, yet, without effective tools of implementation and control. Bahrain – and mostcountries that do not practice democracy – not necessarily lack any laws and programs, but in many of these countries there are some of the best lawswith the worst practices. Therefore, the deeper confusion is concentrated more in practice than in the formulation of government programs, which are poor, if at all, in the Bahraini government(5). Moreover, it is rational that the government program needs to be approved by the Representatives Council in order toadoptthe government, and not require its rejection- as stated in (Article 46) – so the government is considered discharged, especially in light of a “fragile” parliamentary at all.
Third of all, regardless the fundamental difference between the two cases, lack of relevance in voting to reject the government program if it is an alternative to the formation of the parliamentarymajority in the government, the requirement for two-thirds majority to reject the government’s program does abort the right of parliamentary amendments introduced in May 2012.And it usually requiresadopting a simple majority (fifty percent + one) to accept or reject matters of this kind (6), as well the impossibility of providing two-thirds of the votes by the opposition in the Council to reject the government program especially under the circumstances of the divided political distribution circuits, which automatically produces majority of pro-governments.
As a result to all the mentioned above, discussing the rejection of the government program distorts the idea of “the government of the people’s will,” and cannot be viewed as a response to the opposition demand of forming a government of a parliamentary majority.
B. The possibility of ousting the Prime Minister
The constitutional amendments in (Article 67 / d) stated that if the “two-thirds of the Representatives Council members agreed on the inability of cooperation with the Prime Minister, the matter shall be raised to the king for taking a decision, either by exempting the Prime Minister and assigning of a new Cabinet or dissolve the Representatives Council.” Prior to the current constitutional amendments, this process was proceeding with only the consent of the National Council (ConsultativeShura and Representatives chambers)(7).
Within a “gloomy darkness” a description that could apply to the constitutional amendments, this amendment may be relatively speaking considered a positive point, but the requirement oftwo-thirds majority that is impossible – due to mass of pro-authority political distribution circuits – reveals the arbitrariness against the right of Parliament in holding the Prime Minister accountable, who has ruled Bahrain for more than forty years.
C.The level of the partnership between the ruling family and the parliament
Says the official discourse that constitutional amendments verify the concept of “people are the source of authority,” through the participation of the elected Representatives Council or the appointed Consultative (Shura) Council, or both together in a series of actions that were before at the absolute authority of the king.While the Constitution grants to “the king to dissolve the Representatives Council by a decree”, the amendments made it “after taking the opinion of Presidents of Consultative (Shura) and Representatives Councils and the President of the Constitutional Court” (Article 42/c).
It is unknown here, the precise meaning of “take the opinion”, and its level of obligatory to the king, but the most important confusion is that the President of Shura Council and the President of the Constitutional Court are recruited and appointed by the king himself. Besides, the President of theRepresentatives Council who reaches to the top hierarchy through political distribution circuits that is alreadyviolating the principle of “voice of every citizen”(8). And that does ensure a majority of pro-government parliamentary members entering the council and automatically generate a president who fits with the “official royal size”, which in the end give no meaning to “taking opinion” that is supposedly done by the king.
Prior to that, there is an opinion that says “the dissolution of parliament is a sway over the people’s will, and the executive authorities has no right whatsoever to dissolve the parliament”(9).
D. The extent to which the “elected” is empowered over the “appointed” in terms of legislation
The constitutional amendments grants the President of the Representatives Council the presidency of the National Council (the joint of the two -Shura and Representatives Councils), generally (Article 102). It also noted that in the case of the two chambers disagreement on passing a bill twice (Article 85), the original texts of the mentioned articles gives the presidency of both Councils to the appointed Shura Council.
In fact, this amendment does not address the problem of legislation, which is supposed to be anabsolute elected legislative authority. However, that half of the parliament (the appointed Shura chamber) is sat by the king and that does really abort the will of the people represented in an elected council, when those appointed, as happened in the last ten years, stand along with the ruling authority in the legislation process. Additionally, there is no significance of having Representatives Council as a legislative power, no more.
Furthermore, the constitutional amendment in (Article 52), added that the appointment of the members of the Shura Council will be based on “a royal order, in accordance with the regulations and conditions prescribed by the Royal Order”. And that does not change anything in the constitutional amendment as these controls are set by the king himself, and he has the authority to change them, so that a “Royal Order is issued by the will of the King alone and is not preceded by any decision of any authority in regard, while the Royal Decree is issued by the King after being preceded by a decision of the regulatory authority (two branches, Shura Council and the Council of Ministers)”(10).
Among the amendments that are considered also important by the authority is the change that occurred on (Article 83), where the President of the Representative Council (not the Shura as was the case before the amendment) is the in charge person who would refer the bills to the government!
There is no need to be watered down as that is fully configurable, so long as the elected Council is unable to legislate, not because of 40 assigned members vying against themin the legislating only (obstacle #1), but for another essential reason. This reason is in (Article 92) of the Constitution that requires a referral of the law “Proposals” to the government (another obstacle again), who re-formulates them in the form of law “projects”, and then returnthem to the Representatives Council. Most importantly, this procedure must take only “six months” (obstacle #3), and this period of time has been lately added to therecent constitutional amendments on May 3, 2012. After that the government was dragging its feet in re-drafting of laws and proposals and returning them to the Representatives Council.
In case of the Representatives Council passed a bill, it must wait for the approval of the Shura Council, and then wait for confirmation by the King (fourth obstacle)! This turns the Representatives council to a fragile institution of legislation within a number of fundamental and huge obstacles and hurdles.
E. The reality of controls in the elected council
The constitutional amendments yearn to suggest that the Representatives Council has higher authority than the Shura when the latter had its given regulatory power withdrawn. The reality is that before the recent constitutional amendments, the appointed Shura Council was also unable to submit an inclination proposal, or address an interpellation, or question the confidence in the Prime Minister, or establish a commission of inquiry(11). And therefore, the looting of the regulatory authority of the Shura Council is précised in the withdrawal ofan appointed member’s right in directing “one question per month” to a minister in their area of competence (Article 91).
When reviewing the appointees’ performance in questioning and their use of this tool of control, it is noted that during the first round (in the first legislative term) the 40 members has only directed 9 question. While it is their right to provide about 200 questions if to assume that the duration of the first round lasted about six months(12). This means that the questioning methodwas not at allwell-appliedin the Shura Council. It could be argued that this situation continued until the withdrawal of this authority in the recent amendments issued by the King in May 3, 2012. Thus, the withdrawal of such authority or not does not amend the limitation of Shura control over the executive authority, constitutionally, as well as a reality of the loyalty of those appointedShurasto who appointed them on first hand.
Most importantly, the primary dispute is not about the regulatory authority of the appointed room – and perhaps the authorities can amplify more regulatory powerover it, but the dispute is intensifiedon serious disagreement regardingthe legislative authority for the appointed compared to the elected.
It can be seen positively, perhaps, the opportunity for MPs to question ministers, which has been added to (Article 65) in the recent amendments. However, (Article 66) that has not been modified requires the agreement of a two-third of Representatives Council members in order to discharge a minister. Thereforeit is a barrier for MPs to dischargeany minister, except for those who the authorities wish to discharge. Even at this level, the practices of the authority in the last ten years were not even helping the Parliament to succeed.
F. The sanctification of the authorities solely in the monetary affairs
Practically, there has been no change in (Article 87), on monetary affairs. The amendments stated that “every urgent bill that regulates the economical and financial issues shall be presented on the Representatives Council first to decide upon in 15 days, if period ended, the bill is to be presented on the Shura Council with the opinion of the Representatives Council if available for another 15 days. In case of both council disagreement on the presented bill, the matter is to be presented to the National Council to vote on in 15 days, and if not decided upon during that given time, the king can issue the bill through a decree that has the same power of a law.” This clearly shows that the executive authorities monopolize in taking monetary decisions, as it has the same power unilaterally to legislation.
G. The problem of political naturalization
The constitutional amendments try to approach the concerns of the opposition about political naturalization, which is one of the king’s adopted policies. It seems important at this point to check theamendments, which affected the articles (53, 57), and whether these amendments will help containing the growing concern of large segments of the population about a policy of what is sometimes calledthe “Replacement of citizens with other new ones.”
Naturalization is seen as a threat to Bahrain that changes the demographic reality and the identity of the country. It could also contribute to changing the historically composition ofBahrain, and perpetuates the dictatorship with the endorsement of its tens of thousands who have been naturalized(13). This naturalization has been done in many unlawful cases, beyond the actual need of Bahrain, and against the Gulf rules and regulations which are much tightened in granting the citizenship to a foreigner. It has as well caused increasing concerns about the noticeable growth in the the population of Bahrain due to the predominance of foreign citizens, given the small size of the population in the islandof about 1.2 millionpeople, where 55% of them are foreigners.
And it has been added to (Article 57/A) that membership of the Representatives Councils requires “Bahraini citizenship of at least ten years, and the member must not be holding the citizenship of another country.” However the problems that arise, concerns the very core of acquisition of citizenship, not onlythe rights of naturalized citizens.
The King granted citizenship to tens of thousands, contrary to the provisions of the Nationality and Citizenship Law, which states “the possibility” for a person to gain citizenship “if stayed in Bahrain for twenty five years in a row, or fifteen years in a row if an Arab”(14). But the King went beyond thislaw, taking advantage of a mandate that is supposed to be exceptional to give him the right of granting citizenship to those who gave great service to the country, whilst theKing used this authority withoutcontrols or restrictions.
Thus, the idea of ten years mentioned in the new constitutional script does not address theproblematic naturalization. Moreover, the vast majority of naturalized, are members of the army and security forces, who are prevented by law to run for membership of the Representatives Council. But they are used as a pro-governmental population influencing the elections, as what happened with the opposition candidates, such as former Secretary General of The National Democratic Action Society “Wa’ad” Abdul Rahman Al Nuaimi (elections of year 2006), and Ebrahim Sharif(15) (the elections of 2006 and 2010), when naturalized military personnel were pushed into to voting in favor to pro-government parties.
Furthermore, theemerging (Article 57 / a) excludes the “ten years” condition “from any Arab Gulf countriesmember, with only a Bahraini citizenship.”This script opens the way for entry of thousands of naturalized (especially Saudis), claiming that they are originally Bahraini, which eventually means that the amendment increases the fears of systematic policy of changing the demographics of the country.
This is not the only article in the constitution that the authorities try to “punish” the opposition, but there is also (Article 59) that prohibits the resigned member to re-gain his seat that he resigned from. It is known that Al-Wefaq parliamentary bloc resigned in February 2011 in protest to the excessive violence and crackdown on the peaceful protesters at the Pearl Roundabout that was another “Tahrir square” like in Egypt. The existence of this new script in the constitutional amendments aims to prevent the opposition MPs from resigning though it is their legitimate right! However, the violence reaching out from naturalization may not be matched by any otherviolence, in views of some opposition parties.
2) The Mechanism of Constitutional Amendments
In the constitutional amendments made by the king, February 14, 2002, it has been refused to return to the elected Parliament (National Council)(16)to make constitutional changes. It has also been refused to hold a referendum on the constitutional amendments.The King decided to hold his own amendments, which caused what was later known by the “constitutional crisis” that evolved taking the country to what it experienced sinceFebruary 14, 2011.
Says the explanatory note that the constitutional amendments was based on in February 14, 2002, “The will of the people that appeared in the referendum (positive voting on the National Action Charter in February 14, 2001), and the acceptance of His Highness the Prince of this popular will to approve the charter, shows that people had entrusted his Highness in taking the appropriate actions to amend the Constitution in the context of principles and provisions in the Charter, and to perfectly deem the best methodology that develop the constitutional amendments, as well as approving and issuing them.”
All opposition parties rejected this interpretation made on the constitutional note. Prominent lawyers , known then as “the constitution al lobby “, believes that “the Constitution of 1973 is a rigid one, and amending it requires following specific procedures(17) stated in Article (104/a) by saying “the approval of a majority of two-thirds members in theCouncil is required to modify and amend any provision of thisConstitution , and the Ratification of the prince on the amendment is also required”
An observer has to wonder, whether the authorities believe that the referendum/vote on the Charter was considered a legal base from which the amendments of 2002 was approved, without returning to the National elected council. The failure to display the constitutional amendments adopted in May 3, 2012 to a referendum, opposes the idea mentioned in the constitutional note.
The truth is that when the regime decided to carry on one-sided constitutional amendments in 2002, without returning to the people through a referendum, or to the parliament, it was because of the regime’s fear of people and their representatives in the parliament’s rejection on the suggested amendments. That in the end granted almost absolute power and authority to the King.
In year 2012, and because the legislative institutions are already “friendly toward the regime”, the authority has refused to return to a popular referendum, fearing that people will say no to amendments that do not meet the demands in a political reform and a transition to a constitutional monarchy.Therefore, it is difficult to say that the adopted constitutional amendments express the will of the people which seemed completely absent during the approval process.
3) The Local, Regional, and International Opinion regarding the Constitutional Amendments:
The opposition parties considered the constitutional amendments to be illusory and “does not reach out to the people’s demands for activating the principle of people are the source of authority in order to move forward toward a true democratic reality”(18). The opposition wondered whether these constitutional changes had abolished the appointed Consultative Shura Council, or gave the Representatives Council the right to amend the Constitution. And whether these constitutional changes made the security forces under control, and guaranteed the judiciary independency. Those are the sort of questions which has a NO an answer to all.
In brief, these amendments did not achieve the five demands of the opposition: an elected government, a parliament with full power and authority, an impartial judiciary, fair electoral provinces, and security forces with components from the people.
From its side, the loyal political parties endorsed the constitutional amendments, and considered it an emphasis on the continuation of the path of reform, led by king of Bahrain. The President of the Representatives Council Khalifa Al-Dhahrani said: “The constitutional amendments strengthen the role of the popular will and increases the regulatory role ofthe Representatives Council. The amendments are substantial and are a pioneering initiative in the region and the Councils of Parliament. This experience has shown the flexibility and the possibility of reform and development in accordance with the constitutional mechanisms in the Kingdom”(19).
As expected the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) welcomed the constitutional amendments, within the policy of supporting all the steps taken by theBahraini authorities, including the measures of using violence that is convicted on a large scale internationally when dealing with protests demanding reforms. Moreover, the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) did not record any positivecomments and statements of other regional powers.
The United States, Britain, and almost every Western country did not welcome these amendmentsnor did the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a total disregard can be monitored of what the king has approved of amendments in May 3, 2012. This is a very significant indication of the fragility of the constitutional amendments, and certainty of even western allies of the Bahraini regime that these amendments do not change the very structure of the government, and do not deliver any reformist accomplishment.
4) The Ability of the Constitutional Amendments on Containing the Bahraini Matter:
The constitutional amendments did not change the reality of the consuming political crisis in the country, and perhaps did augment it. These amendments might even enlarge the gap between the visions of the authority that refuses to change the existing political system controlled by the family of Al-Khalifa, and the opposition calling for radical reform.There are severe growing fears on the worsening situation in Bahrain that lives in a state of inertia and deficiency in the political initiatives that brings together the divergent parties.
The authorities refuse to elect a constituent assembly to write the Constitution, also reject a dialogue according to the seven points viewed by the Crown Prince of Bahrain in mid-March 2011, where they could have been an acceptable road map.
As a result, nothing could predict that the situation in Bahrain is on its way to turn positive, and perhaps the volatile regional situation contributes to its current stalemate.
The official authorities in Bahrain are aware with the demands of the national opposition, as evidenced by the constitutional amendments that tried to approach some of the issues that political parties considers as fair and legitimate demands, such as an elected government, a parliament with full powers, and a solution to of political naturalization.
However, the regime has miserably failed in bringing constitutional amendments that make sense. That if it was not able to satisfy or contain all the opposition parties, at least to please some of them, and try to dismantle what appears to be a cohesive opposition base, that utmost calls for a Republic, and at least a constitutional monarchy.
The constitutional crisis will remain the largest expression of severity of the impasse Bahrain is living within. However, the Constitution seems to be the very appropriate entrance to solve the growing problem. No matter how much it was denied or span around, the content of the Constitution and the mechanism used to write it and/or amend it, shall remain the cornerstone of any settlement to come. Looks – in any case – deferred.
Table of the Constitutional Amendments Approved by the King of Bahrain on May 3, 2012
Amendments as approved by the Shura and the Representatives Councils
(42- item c)
|The king is able to dissolve the Representatives Council by a decree||The king is able to dissolve the Representatives Council by a decree after taking the opinion of Presidents of the Consultative Shura and Representatives Councils and the President of the Constitutional Court.|
|The Consultative Shura Council consists of forty members appointed by a royal order||The Consultative Shura Council consists of 40 members appointed by a royal order, in accordance with the regulations and conditions prescribed in the Royal Order.|
|A member of the Shura Council must be a Bahraini who enjoys all the civil and political rights||A member of the Shura Council must be a Bahraini, and that includes those who gained Bahraini citizenship forat least ten years and is not holding the citizenship of another country. With the exception of a citizen originally from one of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, holding the Bahraini citizenship only, and enjoying all civil and political rights. Moreover, the member’s name must be listedin Tables of elections and is not less than thirty-five year sold, also of those who are experienced or who have performed a valuable service to the country.|
(57 – items a, c)
|a – must be a Bahraini who enjoys allCivil and political rights, and his name to belisted in one of the tables of elections|
c – to be able to read and write in ArabicA member of the Representatives Council must be:
a – Bahraini and that includes those who gained Bahraini citizenship for at least ten years,and is not holding the citizenship of another country.With the exception of a citizen originally from one of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, holding the Bahraini citizenship only, and enjoying all civil and political rights. Moreover, the member’s name must be listed in Tables of elections.
c – able to read and write in Arabic.
If a place of a member in the Representatives Council was vacant before the end of his period, for any reason, an alternative member must be elected within two months from the date of vacancy declaration of the CouncilIf a place of a member in the Representatives Council was vacant before the end of his period, for any reason, an alternative member must be elected within two months from the date of vacancy declaration of the Counciland the duration of the new member will finishby the end of term of his predecessor. Furthermore, if the vacancy was due to resignation of the Member, it is not permitted for him to run for membership of the Council during the legislative term in which he made his resignation.If the vacancy occurs within six months prior to the end of the legislative term of theCouncil an alternative members will not be elected.
(67 – items b,C, d)
b – If two-thirds of the members of the Representatives Council are unable to cooperate with the Prime Minister, the matter is referred to the National Council to look into it.
c – Itis not permissible for the National Council to issue a decision on the matter of the inability to cooperate with the Prime Minister before seven days after the matter was referred to it.
d – If the National Council approved with a two-thirds majority of its members on the inability to cooperate with the Prime Minister, the matter shall be referred to the King to decide into it, toboth exempt the Prime Minister and appoint anew ministry, or to dissolve the Representatives Councilb – If at least ten members of the Representatives Council provided a reasoned request of inability to cooperate with the Prime Minister, and Majority of the members of the Council approved, the request will be transmitted to the Office of the Council for consideration and transmission to the Council within a period not exceeding two weeks from the date of submission.
c – The Representatives Council may not issue a decision on the subject of the inability to cooperate with the Prime Minister before seven days of transmission of the request from the office of the Council.
d – If two-thirds majority of members of the Representatives Councilare unable to cooperate with the Prime Minister, the matter shall be referred to the king to decide into it, toboth exempt the Prime Minister and appoints new ministry, or to dissolve the Representatives Council.
The Representatives Council can pass on requests to the government in public matters, and ifthe government did not comply with these requests it shall provide its reasons in writing to the Councila – The Representatives Council can pass on requests to the government in public matters, and the government has to respond to the Council in writing within sixmonths, and if it could not comply with these requests it shall provide its reasons.
b – At least five members of the Council may propose a general topic for discussion to understand theGovernment’s policy in regard and to exchange opinions in accordance to the regulations set by the Rules of Procedures of the Council. Moreover, the office of the Council include the request in the agenda of the general debate of the firstsubsequent meeting in order to be submitted for a decision to be taken by the Council without discussion.
If the Representatives Council accepts a bill
as stated by the Shura Council, the bill shall be referred by the president of the Shura Council to the Prime Minister in order to be submitted to the KingIf the Representatives Council accepts a bill as stated by the Shura Council, the bill shall be referred by the president of the Representatives Council within a period not exceeding two weeks to the Prime Minister in order to besub mitted to the King.
If the two Councils disagree on any bill twice, the National Council shall meet
under the chairmanship of the President of the Shura CouncilIf the two Councils disagree on any bill twice, the National Council shall meet under the chairmanship of the President of the Representatives Council in order to discuss the disputed material. It is required in order to accept the bill the approval of majority of members present in the National Council and when refused, the bill shall not be presented again in the same term of the Council.
In all cases, if the bill draft was approved, the President of the Shura Council shall refer it to the Prime Minister in order to be submitted to the kingIn all cases, if the bill draft was approved, the President of the Representatives Council refer it within a period not exceeding
two weeks to the Prime Minister in order to be submitted to the king.
Every urgent bill that regulates the economical and financial issues shall be presented on the Representatives Council first to decide upon in 15 days, if period ended, the bill is to be presented on the Shura Council with the opinion of the Representatives Council if available for another 15 days. In case of both council disagreements on the presented bill, the matter is to be presented to the National Council to vote on in 15 daysEvery urgent bill that regulates the economical and financial issues shall be presented on the Representatives Council first to decide upon in 15 days, if period ended, the bill is to be presented on the Shura Council with the opinion of the Representatives Council if available for another 15 days. In case of both council disagreement on the presented bill, the matter is to be presented to the National Council to vote on in 15 days, and if not decided upon during that given time, the king can issue the bill through a decree that has the same power of a law.
Each ministry once it is formed its program shall be presented to the National Council. The Council may make observations on the given programThe Prime Minister is able to deliver a statement to the Representatives and Shura Councils or one of their committees on a subject within his competence, or he may authorize a Minister to do so. He may also discussit with the Council or the Committee and maymake observations thereon.
(91 – Paragraph. 1)
Each member of the Shura Council or the Representatives Council is able to direct any question in a written form to any ministerEach member of the Representatives Council is able to direct questions in a written form to any minister within his/her competence. The MP has the right to comment one time only on the given answer, however, if the minister added a new pointthe member has the right to comment again.
(92 – item a)
Fifteen members of the Shura Council or the Representatives Council have the right to provide a proposal requesting to amend the Constitution. Besides, any member of the Councils has the right to propose lawsFifteen members of the Shura Council or theRepresentatives Council have the right to provide a proposal requesting to amend the Constitution. Besides, any member of the Councils has the right to propose laws. Each proposal shall be referred to the relevant committee in the Council for an opinion, and if the Council considers accepting the proposal it shall refers it to the Government in order to put it in the form of a constitutional amendment draft or a bill. The government then must submit it to the Representatives Council within six months from the date of referral.
The President of the Shura Council is in charge of the Presidency in the meetings of the National CouncilThe President of the Representatives Council is in charge of the Presidency in the meetings of the National Council, and in his absence the President of the Shura Council takes over, then the First Deputy President of the Representatives Council, then First Deputy President of the Shura Council.
In cases that the Constitution do not require a special majority, meetings of the National Council are not considered legal unless with the presence of majority in both Councils. Any decision to be taken is voted by a present majority except for the president’s vote who has to give an equal weighting voice for the votesIn cases that theConstitution do not require a special majority, meetings of the National Councilare not considered legal unlesswith the presence of majority in both Councils. And if twoconsecutive sessions are not completed, the Council meeting shall be considered active, with the presence of least a quarter of all Council members. Resolutions are passed bya majority vote of those present, and at equal
votes the President’s side of vote shall be considered.
(109 – items b, c)
b – Thegovernment shall prepare a bill
of the annual budget for the overall country’s revenues and expenditures, and submit it to the Representatives Council beforetwo months at least prior to the end of the fiscal year, in order to be discussed and referred to the Shura Council
c – Budgetingmay be prepared for more than a fiscal yearb – Thegovernment shall prepare a bill
of the annual budget for the overall country’s revenues and expenditures, and submit it to the Representatives Council and the Shura Council before two months at least prior to the end of the fiscal year.After the submission of the bill, the financial committees of each council meet to discuss it with the government, and after the discussions both committees prepare a separate detailed report to the Representatives and Shura Council. The bill afterwards is presented to the Representatives Council and referred to the Shura Council for its consideration in accordance with the provisions of
Constitution and it may make any amendment to the draft budget law in agreement with the government.
c – A tab contained discussion of the draft billmay be prepared and a budget for two fiscal years to
most could be done. Any of the public revenuesmay not be allocated for any specific expenditure except by law.
The government provides the annual budget to the Representatives Council, accompanied by a statement on the economical and financial state of the countryThe government provides the annual budget to the Representatives Council and the Shura Council, accompanied bya statement on the economical and financial state of the country. As well as the measures taken to implement the provided budget, and their effects on the whole new budget project.
(120 – item a)
To modify any provision of the
Constitution, the amendments are required to be approved by two-thirds majority of the members in the Shura and Representatives Councils. And the King has to approve the amendments, which
notwithstanding the provisions of (article 35 – item b, c, d) of the ConstitutionTo modify any provision of the Constitution, the amendments are required to be approved by two-thirds majority of the members in the Shura and Representatives Councils. And the King has to approve the amendments, which not with standing the provisions of (article 35 – item b, c, d) of the Constitution. If any of the two Councils did not approve the amendments or the proposed text of the amendments, the National Council with the presence of two thirds of its members shall meet to discuss how to improve the proposed amendments. And it is also required for the approval of the improvement made by the National Councilthe agreement oftwo-thirds of the members in the Council.
A new paragraph addedThe Prime Minister shall present the government program within thirty days of the constitutional swearing tothe Representatives Council, or his firstmeeting if was absent. If the Council did not approve this program within thirty days by a majority of its members the government shall resubmit it to the Council after making adjustments to it within twenty one days from the date of the rejection by the Council.
If the Representatives Council insisted on rejecting the program for the second time within a period not exceeding twenty-one days by a two-thirds majority of its members, the King shall accept the resignation of the ministry. If theCouncil did not approve the program of the new ministry with the same procedures andprevious periods, the king shall dissolve the Council or accept the resignation of the Cabinet and appoint a new ministry. The Council must issue a decision to accept or rejectthe government’s program during the periods set, if one of these periods passed without a decision made by the Council the program shall be counted as accepted.
A new paragraph addedA request signed by five members of the Representatives Council at least can direct questions to any of the Ministers with regard to matters within his/her terms of reference. Interrogations are conducted in accordance with the terms and conditions determined by the Rules of Procedure of the House of Representatives. And the interrogation is discussed in the Council if approved by a majority of its members, or else only discussed in the relevant committee and that after eight days at least on the request submission, unless requested by the minister to expedite thisdiscussion. The interrogation maylead to raisingthe issue of confidence in a minister to the Representatives Council in accordance with the provisions of (Article 66) of the Constitution.
2.In the fifties Bahrainis demanded democracy under the leadership of the NaseriAbdulrahman Al-Baker. In the 60s and 70s the left-side parties fronted the lines under the leadership of Abdulrahman Al-Nuami(The Leader of the Popular Party) and Ahmed Al-Thawadi(The Leader of the TahrirParty). And since the 90s Islamists has dominated the political scene.
3.See the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) headed by the international expert Professor M. CherifBassiouni, November 23, 2001 ..
4.(An elected government that express the people’s will) this definition was stated in the initiative announced by the Crown Prince of Bahrain on March 13, 2011, as an alternative term for the “elected government”, it was not meant for this initiative to see light because of military intervention after two days, in order to break up the protests taking place at the Pearl Roundabout which has began in mid-February of the same year.
5.The government program with no specific targets, numbers, or mechanisms, Al-Wasat newspaper, September 21, 2002.
6.The U.S. president is elected by a majority of 51% of voters, and this applies to presidents in the countries that take the presidential form, where in parliamentary form systems like in Britain, representatives from the parliamentary majority choose the prime minister, in the case of the emergence of the legislative branch of the government.
7.A legislative power shall consist of two chambers in Bahrain: an appointed first chamber is called the ShuraCouncil which is composed of 40 members. An elected second chamber called the Representatives Council, consisting of 40 members, and both councils has the same legislative power and authority.
8.See reports of Bahrain Transparency Society for monitoring the parliamentary elections: 2002.2006, 2010.
9.Abdullah AlShamlawi, Al-Wasat Newspaper, May 16, 2012
10.The Information Center in the Bahraini Representatives Council: http://www.nuwab.gov.bh/InformationCenter/Show.aspx?ArticleId=156
11.See the Regulatory Powers of the Shura Council in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain 2002.
12. Abbas Busafwan, The Absence of the Shura Council: an Attempt to Understand, Al-Wasat Newspaper, May 16, 2004.
13.Some statistics estimated them about eighty thousand, see the News of Lebanon Newspaper, January 14, 2010.
14.See Nationality Act of 1963.
15.Ebrahim Sharif was arrested on March 17, 2011, included in the group of 14 leadingopponent, and is serving a prison sentence of five years, issued by a military court on charges of “founding a terrorist group that aims to change the constitution and the monarchy in Bahrain”.
16.The National Council was resolved in August 1957, and the authorities refusedto elect it in 2002, in order to hold the constitutional amendments proposed by the National Action Charter in2001.
17.Hassan Radhi and others, An Opinion on the Constitutional Issue.
18.Al-WasatNewspapers, May 4, 2012.
19.Al-WasatNewspapers, May 4, 2012.
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