Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Bahrain - A More Stable Phase Ahead?
Civility Newsletter, Issue 2.3.(2006)
By Abdulhadi Khalaf
As a sequel to a royal decree, Bahrain’s Parliament ended its legislative term on 26 July 2006. The final sessions of the twin Chambers provided their speakers with occasions to praise the role of their institutions, and to laud members for their hard work and dedication to strengthen the legislative movement throughout the preceding four years. During those tearfilled meetings, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Al Fadhel praised members for their achievements and their role in pressing forward with the democratic movement in the country.
Similar sentiments flowed during a royal audience granted to the Speakers of both Chambers when King Hamad “expressed his appreciation for all the members of both Houses for their efforts during their four sessions.” (Bahrain Tribune, 27 July 2006). These and other congratulatory messages exchanged during the following week by royals, officials and legislators were not just ceremonious signals. What was being celebrated was no mean feat. From the monarch down, Bahrain’s officialdom had overcome several of the major divisive issues that plagued the country since 2002. One of those relates to the “legitimacy” of both the constitution and the elected Assembly.
The 2002 Constitution divided the National Assembly into two chambers with equal powers: the directly elected Council of Deputies, and the Shoura Council, whose members are appointed by the King. While members may prepare proposals for draft laws, only the government may bring draft laws to a vote, and the monarch has the final word in any legislative dispute.
A coalition of four opposition groups, including the main Shiite group Al-Wifaq, charged that King Hamad reneged on a central component of the proposed reforms when, on 14 February 2002, he unilaterally promulgated a new constitution that restricted the National Assembly’s role. It turned the National Assembly into a mere extension of the government with more consultative than deliberative and legislative roles. The opposition questioned the legitimacy of the new Constitution but did not go as far as to challenge the monarch’s reformist credentials. They continued to negotiate with royal advisers, appealing to the King to change his mind. The monarch, on his part, seemed set on fulfilling his plans, pushing opposition leaders into a corner and discrediting them among their constituencies by forcing them to back down.
CONTINUE .....Civility News Letter Issue 2.3.(2006)