2023 Portfolios: When Parliament Becomes Government Puppet

Bahraini Parliament session
Bahraini Parliament session

2024-02-28 - 3:32 p

Bahrain Mirror (2023 Portfolios): In April 2023, the Legislative Committee in the House of Representatives approved a proposal to amend the internal regulations of the parliament, aiming to strip it of its remaining powers, effectively reducing it to a subject of mockery. The amendments were not elaborated on in the local press, indicating the sensitivity surrounding the issue.

On December 12, 2023, the parliament rejected by an overwhelming majority (29 out of 40) these amendments, which remained vague and undisclosed to the public. The rejection stemmed from the parliament's unwillingness to further diminish its powers, marking a belated uprising by the same parliament that has previously passed in 2022 amendments (by royal desire), reducing the space for public debate and limiting the number and duration of each MP's intervention on any issue, effectively turning the parliament into a mere extension of the government.

The recent uprising of MPs follows their disillusionment with being treated as punching bags by the authorities, who use them to absorb public frustration and anger over accumulated failures and lack of progress on various issues.

Looking back, one MP was a vocal critic of Gulf Air, yet his statements failed to prevent the national carrier from taking the agitating step of dismissing dozens of citizens under the pretext of "restructuring."

Regarding the normalization with Israel, despite parliamentary outcry against the Zionist entity on multiple occasions, several council members attended an international parliamentary meeting held in Manama, in the presence of a delegation from the Israeli Knesset. Parliamentary statements did little to slow down the pace of the normalization process, with Bahrain even joining a naval military coalition aimed at protecting Israel from Yemeni attacks.

The parliament, which is tasked with overseeing the country's finances, is the same parliament that passed the general budget and reviewed the latest Standard & Poor's report in November 2023, which downgraded Bahrain's rating and projected fiscal imbalance in 2024. However, no questions were raised to the government regarding these issues.

Over the past years, the parliament approved the appropriation of funds from the unemployment fund, despite citizens' criticism and frustration. This year (2023) alone, it approved the seizure of 200 million dinars from the fund, bringing the total amount seized to over 700 million dinars for various purposes (230 million dinars were withdrawn in favor of voluntary retirement in March 2019, 240 million dinars to face the repercussions of the Coronavirus in 2020, another 60 million dinars to face the repercussions of the Coronavirus in 2021, and finally 200 million dinars to support training, employment and wage support programs in September 2023).

In summary, citizens' perception of the parliament remains unchanged in 2023 - a council used to absorb public anger and frustration, lacking the power or courage to challenge decisions made even by lower-ranking officials in the royal palace.

Arabic Version