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MIDEAST > Bahrain king announces new reforms

MANAMA - Reuters

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Bahrain’s king announced constitutional amendments Jan. 15 giving parliament more powers of scrutiny over government, but the opposition said they fell far short of demands set down by the Shiite-led opposition.

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-dominated government crushed a pro-democracy uprising. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa referred his draft proposals to the national council, including the all-appointed Shura (consultative) council and the lower elected chamber, for ratification, the BNA state news agency reported.

Under the proposed reforms, the king will have to “ask the opinion of the heads of the Shura council, parliament and the constitutional court” before dissolving the parliament, instead of just discussing it with the prime minister. The monarch also proposed that the government “gains the vote of confidence if its program is accepted” after a parliamentary debate, a move he said was designed to give the people a stronger voice in government policy.

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 and adhering by the law and respecting international human rights principles,” he said.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

January/17/2012

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