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Bahrain's parliament demands real power

Special to World
Monday, January 27, 2003

ABU DHABI Weeks after the resumption of parliamentary life in Bahrain, the new legislature is demanding real power.

Many in the 40-seat parliament are calling on King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa to grant the new body legislative and oversight authority over the government. They argue that without these powers parliament will remain ineffective.

On Dec. 14, King Hamad inaugurated the first parliament in Bahrain since 1975. Bahrain maintained a suspension on parliamentary elections amid unrest attributed to Iran.

Parliament is composed of two houses. Members of the House of Deputies were elected in October. The Shura council is appointed by the king.

The two houses were given equal authority. The House is dominated by Islamic fundamentalists, some of whom have called for a ban on liquor and an end to the U.S. military presence in the kingdom.

Bahraini parliamentarians have drafted a letter to Hamad that calls for more authority for the House. The letter asserted that expanding the powers of the House would fulfill the king's pledge for democracy.

"We would like to emphasize our determination to cooperate with the members of the Shura Council while stressing the importance of giving the House of Deputies more legislative and monitoring powers that suit the hopes of the Bahraini people," the parliamentary letter read. "We, the people's representatives, will stand by Your Majesty in the fight against all sorts of corruption through fully transparent monitoring system."

House Speaker Khalifa Al Dahrani said the letter will be relayed to Hamad soon. Al Dahrani did not rule out that parliament would initiate efforts to revise the constitution that would change the balance of power between the House and Shura.

"Why should we ask the King for something we could do," Al Dahrani said. Hamad has urged parliament to focus on economic issues. With a jobless rate of 15 percent, Bahrain is said to have the highest unemployment among the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council.

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