Bahraini MPs vote to limit debating powers

MPs who are first to register their names with the general secretariat ahead of the session will have priority to take part in the debate

  
Photo used for illustrative purpose. Members of parliament are seen during a closed door session during weekly parliament session in Manama.

Photo used for illustrative purpose. Members of parliament are seen during a closed door session during weekly parliament session in Manama.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

MPs have voted to limit their powers during open debates in Parliament.

Of the 40 members, 14 voted in favour of a Royal decree issued by His Majesty King Hamad in September last year to amend the 2002 Parliament Bylaws Law, following a heated debate during the chamber’s weekly session yesterday.

Eleven MPs voted against the decree, nine abstained and six were absent.

For any decree to be declared “void”, 21 MPs are required to vote against it.

Under the decree, a maximum of 10 MPs will be allowed to take part in an open debate, with each member being allowed only five minutes to make his point.

Last week, Parliament’s legislative and legal affairs committee had recommended approving the decree.

Under the amended legislation, MPs who are first to register their names with the general secretariat ahead of the session will have priority to take part in the debate.

In case the number of applicants wishing to take part in the discussion is less than 10, priority will be given to those whose names have been registered with the general secretariat prior to the session, and then to members who request to speak during the session.

In all cases, no member will be allowed to speak for more than five minutes.

Also not permitted will be criticism, blame, accusation, or statements that contravene the Constitution or the law, constitute a breach of the dignity of persons or entities, or harm the high interests of the country.

During the fiery debate yesterday, MPs traded insults and accusations following comments by services committee vice-chairwoman Dr Sawsan Kamal.

“MPs should be focused on the deba`te and not on an exaggerated passion to show off on social media platforms and for appeasing voters unrealistically by deviating from the main topic and disregarding the value of time,” she said.

Parliament Speaker Fouzia Zainal cut her off, saying that all provocative comments and improper assessment of her colleagues’ performances would be struck from the records.

“Evaluating MPs’ intent was not up for debate and accusations that the devil drives us to speak out of order is unacceptable,” said Parliament legislative and legal affairs committee chairman Fadhel Al Sawad.

Stating that Dr Kamal’s comments were highly offensive, Ahmed Al Demistani urged Ms Zainal to cut the online feed of anyone found insulting colleagues.

Parliament first vice-chairman Abdulnabi Salman said Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain, a former Parliament first vice-chairman, was defending the government-forced legislation despite believing otherwise.

Mr Salman also said the minister should stop accusing MPs of being irresponsible.

“He should be first at peace with himself as he defends things that he does not believe in most of the time and this is Ramadan, a time to speak the truth,” he said.

“We have heard him saying that MPs are not disciplined and, me personally, not respectable for saying things and then voting the other way while everyone knows clearly who I am.”

Mr Al Buainain replied he didn’t wear two hats, and he was convinced with the decree.

“The decree is constitutionally and legally the right approach,” he added.

The Legislation and Legal Opinion Commission had said that the decree was important.

“Since 2012 when the amendments to the Constitution were carried out to grant legislators more powers, there has been a shortcoming on how debates are conducted,” it said.

MPs in 2014 voted to limit their questioning powers by requiring an absolute majority (27 out of 40 MPs) rather than the majority in attendance to question a minister.

The decree is now set for an immediate review by the Shura Council.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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