Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

BUSINESS DAILY

France's Iliad reaches for T-Mobile

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Is Poor Military Training Causing a Larger Death Toll in Gaza?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Villepin Criticises France for Not Speaking Out on Gaza

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

UNRWA official breaks down over Gaza deaths

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

War and Markets, with Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank

Read more

FOCUS

Constitution prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president

Read more

  • Live: Israeli soldier feared captured, ceasefire 'over'

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • €2.5mn of cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more

  • Dozens killed and injured in Taiwan gas blast

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Scores feared dead in India landslide

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay further €1.9bn to Yukos shareholders

    Read more

  • Russia defiant as US, EU unveil 'phase three' sanctions

    Read more

Middle east

Bahrain's king announces constitutional reforms

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-16

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Khalifa on Sunday announced constitutional amendments giving parliament more power, as the pro-American Gulf nation has been witnessing sectarian violence in the wake of a clampdown on a pro-democracy opposition movement.

REUTERS  - Bahrain’s king announced constitutional amendments on Sunday giving parliament more powers of scrutiny over government, but the opposition said they fell far short of demands for democracy that have driven a year of unrest in the Gulf Arab state.

The speech did not mention clashes between riot police and mainly Shi’ite opposition activists that have taken place on an almost daily basis since martial law was lifted in May after the Sunni-led government crushed a pro-democracy movement.

The Gulf island nation, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, is seen by the United States and Saudi Arabia as a key ally against non-Arab Shi’ite power Iran just across Gulf waters.

The amendments, which increase powers to question ministers and withdraw confidence in the cabinet, emerged from a national dialogue King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa organised last year after the Sunni-dominated government crushed a democracy uprising dominated by majority Shi’ites.

The main opposition party Wefaq withdrew from the dialogue, saying it did not go far enough to offer real reform.

The king, in a televised speech said: “Our people have proven their desire for continuing with reforms... We complete the march today with those who have an honest patriotic desire for more progress and reform.”

“I must mention here that democracy is not just constitutional and legislative rules, it is a culture and practice and adhering by the law and respecting international human rights principles,” he said.

“I beseech all sectors of society to work together so that all their sons adhere to the law, which is linked to coexistence and tolerance...”

The cabinet is headed by the same prime minister from the royal family who was appointed when Bahrain emerged from colonial tutelage in 1971. The elected parliament’s powers to legislate are neutralised by an appointed chamber.

Activists were scathing about the speech, which comes after a number of deaths in recent weeks resulting from the tense security situation.

A 24-year-old Shi’ite man was found dead after he went missing last Wednesday. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said his body showed signs of torture, but the Interior Ministry said he had drowned.

“Shoes are being thrown at your face (on TV), you lowest of kings in the depths of hell!” wrote a Twitter user called ‘Sanabis News’, - the usename a reference to a Shi’ite district where police and youths clash daily.

Saeed Shehabi, an opposition leader based in London, wrote after the speech was announced on Sunday evening: “Never in history has a dictator become a democrat. So how can Al Khalifa be expected to change? They simply have to go.”

Tensions are set to rise ahead of Feb. 14, the anniversary of the uprising last year after Egyptians and Tunisians succeeded in forcing out unpopular leaders.

Analysts say hardliners within the Khalifa family, backed by Saudi Arabia, have the upper hand and reject further reforms.

Date created : 2012-01-15

  • BAHRAIN

    Bomb explodes near British embassy in Bahrain

    Read more

  • BAHRAIN

    Probe finds security forces used 'excessive force'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)