Al-Wefaq censures Bahrain reforms
Bahraini anti-government protesters attend a demonstration in front of the United Nations office in Manama on January 10, 2012.
The main Bahraini opposition party, Al-Wefaq, has criticized constitutional reforms proposed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Al-Wefaq said in a statement issued on Sunday that the Bahraini people will not stop their demonstrations against the Manama regime until their demands are met.
The statement was issued shortly after King Hamad proposed constitutional reforms that would allow the elected parliament to question the ministers without seeking prior approval from the upper house.
In a speech broadcast from the capital Manama on Sunday, King Hamad said the proposed amendments “bring greater harmony in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, in order to achieve a better balance between them.”
Under the proposed reforms, the king will have to ask the opinion of the heads of the 40-member upper house, known as the Shura Council, the constitutional court and the lawmakers before dissolving the parliament, instead of only discussing it with the prime minister.
The Bahraini monarch also proposed that the government “gains the vote of confidence if its program is accepted” after a parliamentary debate. He said the move was to give the Bahraini people “a stronger voice” in the government policy.
Bahraini opposition groups demand a full constitutional monarchy where the prime minister would be chosen from the elected lower house.
The 40 members of the Shura Council in Bahrain are appointed by the king.
“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,” King Hamad said.
The Bahraini monarch's proposal comes at a time that regime forces continue the violent suppression of peaceful anti-government demonstrations in villages and towns across the country.
On Saturday, witnesses said an elderly woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by regime forces inside her house in the northwestern village of Barbar.
Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds more arrested or fired from their jobs since the beginning of the popular uprising in Bahrain in February 2011.
Many health workers, teachers, opposition figures and human rights activists are still facing trial or serving prison terms over participation in anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain.