Bahrain king promises constitutional changes

19 January 2012

Opposition says reform package does not go far enough

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has promised to make constitutional amendments that will strengthen parliament as part of enacting a series of reforms proposed during a National Dialogue with opposition groups in mid-2011.

The reforms will limit the king’s ability to dissolve the lower house of parliament, filled by elected representatives and also require him to issue a royal order explaining how members of the upper house, or Shura Council, are appointed.

The country’s leading opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which walked out of the National Dialogue before it concluded, said the reforms did not go far enough in implementing democratic reform. Jawad Fairooz, a former MP and a member of Al-Wefaq, said that along with other opposition parties they rejected the “minor constitutional changes because it is not up to our democratic standards”. He added that “there are no serious steps towards true democracy”.

Protests started in Bahrain on 14 February, inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. However, a brutal crackdown by security forces cleared demonstrators from the capital, Manama. In response King Hamad started a National Dialogue to try and address the concerns of protesters and commissioned the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to investigate events surrounding the protests that left more than 50 people dead, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

Despite these efforts at reform, protests continue in Bahrain and are frequently met with a heavy police presence using tear gas to disperse crowds.

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