Bufarsan: “We will never allow anything to be passed which harms citizens. The Bahraini citizen is a red line”
Member of the Bahrain National Bloc
Member of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs
(from Oct 2015)
Member of Committee for Youth and Sports
Chairman of Committee for Investigating Improper Recitation of Quranic verses (Mar 2015)
Member of Mumtalakat Investigation Committee (April 2015)
Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports (Dec 2014 – Nov 2015)
Member of the Permanent Committee for Services (Dec 2014 – Oct 2015)
During the 2014 elections Bufarsan established himself as a remarkable candidate in a highly competitive constituency in central Muharraq. He has continued to be an energetic MP with views on a broad range of issues and a role in several committees.
As head of the Committee for Youth and Sport, Bufarsan has championed higher investment in sports and activities for young people.
Bufarsan was behind a number of innovative proposals in early 2015, including opening a branch Bahrain University in Muharraq; support for children with autism and other debilitating diseases; rights for healthcare for Bahrainis studying abroad; and a proposal for a ministry responsible for planning and research.
Although in March 2015 a strong majority of MPs voted against increasing levels of public debt to BD 7bn, Bufarsan was one of a small number of figures to stood by this position, with only seven MPs voting to reject this measure during the second vote on 2 July 2015.
In early 2015 Bufarsan was reported to be part of a new “Bahrain National Bloc”, this was confirmed in October 2015 when the bloc was formally announced. At the same time, Bufarsan applied to leave the Services Committee and join the Finance Committee.
His candidature was approved in a key vote by MPs which saw radical changes to the membership of the Finance Committee and the ousting of three members, including former Chairman Isa al-Kooheji. The National Bahrain Bloc, in coordination with other groupings of MPs, appears to have been instrumental in enforcing these changes. Other members of the National Bloc – Qaratah, Al-Ahmed and Al-Ammadi – are also Finance Committee members.
ACTIVITY DURING 2015-2016 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Housing: During a parliamentary debate on 13 Oct in which the Housing Minister was present, Bufarsan acknowledged that the Govt had accepted to deal with housing requests chronologically, but he questioned the segments of society which had been excepted from this, and whether there were those more deserving of prioritization than widows and divorcees.
Events hall: During the 24 Nov parliamentary session, a proposal by Al-Jowder, Qaratah, Al-Hammadi, Bufarsan and Bumjaid, for establishing an events hall for women in Qalali, was withdrawn for further consultation, at the request of the Chairwoman of the Women and Children’s Committee, Al-Haiki.
Standards of living, health & education
Graduates: In a graduation speech on 12 Sep Bufarsan highlighted the role graduates play in benefitting Bahrain.
Health: Bufarsan on 17 Oct spoke about the importance of implementing directives for establishing a specialist health centre for sports medicine.
Benefit payments: During their weekly meeting on 20 October MPs voted in favour of measures to enshrine counter-inflation payments into law and more clearly define who is entitled to them. Bufarsan said that the proposal didn’t do enough to define who were the eligible segments of society.
Social insurance: Bufarsan on 4 Nov questioned the Finance Ministry about the level of money available in the Social Insurance Fund.
Food security: Bufarsan on 21 Oct called for a tightening up of inspections on imported livestock, in the context of meat subsidy reform and reports of infected livestock arriving in the country.
Nurseries: Bufarsan on 31 Oct proposed that the Education Ministry allocate nursery places for low income families.
Electricity: During the 24 Nov parliamentary session, proposals by Bufarsan, Al-Muqla, Buhassan, Murad, Al-Ahmed and Al-Mahfoudh were withdrawn for further consultation. The proposals involved setting up a separate electricity billing scheme for the families of widows and divorcees.
Good governance & public finance
Subsidies: During the 27 Oct open parliamentary debate on subsidy reform, Bufarsan said that the Govt had not taken a sensible and considered approach to subsidy reforms, and that decisions had been taken without proper study.
During the 3 Nov parliamentary session, MPs voted to increase meat subsidy compensation to BD 10 to each Bahraini citizen. MPs also voted in support of compensating butchers and investigating the situation facing them. Bufarsan stated that butchers were facing a crisis. He said that the Labour Fund Tamkeen had supported struggling businesses during previous crises and should also support the butchers.
Audit report: Bufarsan on 7 Nov said that the Financial Audit Bureau report demonstrated the extent of administrative mismanagement and corruption. He warned that “some ministries respond to any statements by MPs or citizens, or even journalists, claiming that they want to investigate the accuracy in broadcasting news. They exert pressure on various media outlets and try to make the public feel that they are working honestly and conscientiously… yet at the end of the year citizens are shocked to discover that what was circulated in the past was actually true and that certain ministries are engaging in lies and propaganda while claiming perfection”.
Bufarsan on 10 Nov was interviewed for the Inside Parliament programme on Bahrain TV. He stressed the importance of the Financial Audit Bureau report for improving spending of public money. He affirmed to those who doubted that they would see results that Parliament was serious about addressing violations.
Policing & regional security
Terrorism: In the context of escalatory Iranian actions and language against Bahrain, Bufarsan on 26 July accused Iran of calling for rights and freedoms that Iran’s own people did not enjoy. Bufarsan on 6 Aug condemned the mosque attack in Abha Saudi Arabia. In a 25 Aug statement condemning recent terrorist incidents, Bufarsan affirmed that the people of Muharraq “are not seduced into acts of terrorism and sabotage”. Bufarsan on 29 Aug strongly condemned the Al-Karranah bombing which killed one policeman.
Bufarsan on 6 Nov called on citizens to report those hiding weapons and explosives for the sake of the safety of the public. He praised the Interior Ministry for protecting the public from such attacks.
Yemen: Bufarsan on 4 Sep extended his condolences over the deaths of 5 Bahraini soldiers and other GCC troops in Yemen. He emphasized the coalition’s role in GCC security.
On 9 Oct Bufarsan stressed Bahrain’s efforts to restore stability to Yemen and praised the role of Bahraini and GCC forces.
Maritime: Committees: During the 10 Nov parliamentary session, Bufarsan unsuccessfully argued that Bahrain’s membership of an international convention on sea rescue, on the grounds that it could allow for the entry of Iranian ships.
Britain: Bufarsan on 23 Nov condemned the presence of “terrorist” elements in Britain who were engaged in damaging Bahrain’s international standing.
Rights & freedoms
Human rights: Bufarsan on 18 July criticized the “contradictory statistics” emerging from America concerning the human rights situation in Bahrain.
Youth, culture & sport
Technology: Bufarsan congratulated the Prime Minister on 11 Aug for his awarding of a technology and economic development prize, saying that the PM’s contribution had enhanced Bahrain’s reputation.
Youth and Sports Committee: During the 10 November vote on committee membership, Jalal al-Mahfoudh, Hamad al-Dossary, Ali Bufarsan, Ali al-Muqla and Ghazi Al Rahmah were approved unopposed as members of the Youth and Sports Committee.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Affiliation: On 18 October the media reported the establishment of the Bahrain National Bloc, whose existence had been reported several months before, but effectively came into being for the negotiations around the elections for chairmanship of the committees. The bloc is to be headed by Abdulrahman Bumjaid. The bloc will reportedly include Mohammed al-Jowder, Ali Bufarsan, Ibrahim al-Hammadi and Ahmed Qaratah – all of whom were previously reported as being part of such a bloc – along with new additions Mohammed al-Ahmed and Mohammed al-Ammadi (Minbar).
Committees: During the 14 October vote concerning membership of the Finance Committee for the new parliamentary term, Isa al-Kooheji, Khalid al-Shaer and Nasir al-Qaseer were voted off the Committee with only ten votes, ten votes and 15 votes respectively. During the same vote, Jalal al-Mahfoudh won 37 votes, Mohammed al-Ammadi won 36 votes, Abdulrahman Bu-Ali (selected as the Chairman of the Finance Committee with Al-Mahfoudh as his deputy) 35 votes, Adel Bin-Hamid 34 votes, Majid al-Asfour 31 votes, Ahmed Qaratah 28 votes and Ali Bufarsan 25 votes.
King’s speech: On 19 October the media confirmed that Ali al-Muqla would head the committee for responding to the King’s speech at the opening of Parliament. Ali Bufarsan was voted as his deputy.
ACTIVITY DURING 2014-2015 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Standards of living, health & education
Education: Bufarsan on 21 January said that the Services Committee had rejected the draft bill from the Shura Council concerning private educational institutions, because it was too similar to existing legislation.
Schools: Bufarsan on 4 May, along with Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Ahmed Qaratah, Abdulrahman Bumjaid and Mohammed al-Jowder, have formally proposed a primary school for Busaiteen in Bufarsan’s constituency. He noted the “suffering” of local people resulting from the distance of local schools.
Nurseries: Bufarsan on 22 June proposed the establishment of nurseries across Bahrain for children with autism.
University: Muharraq MPs Ali Bufarsan, Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Jamal Dawoud, Abbas al-Madhi and Abdulrahman Bu-Ali on 18 April called for the establishment of a third campus of the University of Bahrain in Muharraq. Al-Madhi in quotes to the media stressed that this would ease the pressure on the two existing campuses and make life easier for Muharraq students. The proposal was first raised by Bufarsan in December 2014. Parliament on 21 April agreed on the proposal to establish a Bahrain University department in Muharraq. The Education Minister complemented the initiative, but noted the need to consider resources. Bufarsan pointed out that the distance many Muharraq residents had to travel for university convinced many to join the army and abandon their education.
Literacy: Bufarsan on 2 May submitted a private bill proposing the implementation of the programme to eradicate illiteracy at the basic levels of schooling.
Health: Bufarsan has suggested that Bahrainis based abroad have equal access to health care in comparison with other Bahrainis. He cited the example of students, who he said should enjoy the same privileges as other Bahrainis while abroad.
On 6 April Bufarsan criticized the failure of the Health Ministry to address rare diseases which required treatment abroad. He noted a previous question to the Health Minister about the number of mistakes made by doctors and how the Ministry dealt with these. He said that many Bahraini hospitals lacked modern facilities.
Meat subsidies: During the 26 May parliamentary discussion, a majority of MPs spoke out against the Govt’s plan for halting meat subsidies. Bufursan said: “We will never allow anything to be passed which harms citizens. The Bahraini citizen is a red line.”
During the 2 June open parliamentary debate on planned subsidy cuts, Bufursan questioned why the Govt had started on meat subsidies when this was one of the most important food commodities – rather than considering electricity and water.
Economy & employment
Health personnel: Bufarsan criticized comments by the Health Minister during the 21 April parliamentary session regarding attempts to recruit Bahraini medics. Bufarsan claimed that Bahrainis often required half the wage of foreign recruits.
Good governance & public finance
Action Plan: On 25 January Bufarsan spoke out against proposed further extensions to the study period of the Government Action Plan in the absence of additional measures to improve standards of living.
Planning: Bufarsan spoke in Parliament on 20 January about the urgent need for establishing a governmental institution for planning, saying that this could be an important centre for research.
A majority of parliamentarians on 21 April voted in favour of the Legal Committee’s recommendation to reject the proposal for a new Planning Authority. Bufarsan expressed his regret at the Committee’s recommendation, noting the need for greater forward planning.
Bufarsan on 30 April formally proposed a Ministry for Planning and Scientific Research. MPs Ahmed Qaratah, Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Abdulrahman Bumjaid and Mohammed al-Jowder supported the proposal. Bufarsan said: “We need a clearer idea to ensure long term plans to improve our situation, instead of solely depending on fixing short term problems”.
Public debt: During the 24 March parliamentary session to discuss a possible rise in the debt ceiling, Bufarsan rejected sending the proposal back to the Financial Committee for further discussion and voted with the majority of MPs to reject an increase in the debt ceiling.
On 27 March six MPs, including Bufarsan, issued a statement voicing concerns at rumours that the parliamentary decision to limit the debt ceiling would result in cutting services like housing benefit, inflation support and support for pensioners. They noted that the Prime Minister had committed himself to increasing standards of living and the Government had committed itself to the pledges of the 2015-18 Action Plan. They noted that Parliament’s judgment on the National Debt was in line with the National Bank’s recommendations that borrowing shouldn’t exceed 60% of GDP.
Bufursan tabled a question for the Finance Minister on 1 June about measures for reducing levels of public debt.
Budget: On 10 April Bufarsan called on the Government to accelerate its efforts to issue the State Budget to the Parliament. He voiced concerns that the Government would issue the Budget as an urgent bill, which wouldn’t give MPs sufficient chance to scrutinize it.
Audit report: During the 14 April parliamentary debate concerning the annual Financial Audit Bureau report, Bufarsan criticized former parliaments for failing to address the issues raised by the audit reports. “There must be accountability, interrogations and transfer of violators to the Public Prosecutor” he said. He singled out several specific departments for criticism and said that the report should have been wider across the public sector.
Policing & regional security
Prison riot: Bufarsan on 13 March praised the security forces in dealing with the recent riot in Jaw Prison as well as an incident where live ammunition was fired at police. He blamed foreign TV channels for inciting unrest and said that Hassan Nasrallah from Hezbollah had also sought to “stir up chaos”.
Saudi mosque attack: Bufarsan on 23 May issued a statement strongly condemning the attack by ISIS against a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia, killing around 21 people.
Terrorism: In a 8 June statement responding to the arrests of the Iran-sponsored Al-Ashtar Brigades, Bufarsan praised the efforts of security forces in thwarting attempted attacks and called for harsher measures against those involved in terrorism.
Rights, freedoms & religion
Quran: During the 17 March parliamentary debate about the proposal for setting up an inquiry committee over the reading of Quranic verses during a talent contest, Bufarsan questioned what had occurred saying that such events cannot occur without approval from the school and the Ministry of Education.
Bufarsan was made the head of the parliamentary committee to investigate this issue. Bufarsan on 29 March said that his committee would speak to the Public Prosecution to check about any overlap between their own investigations and the parliamentary investigation.
Bufarsan on 8 June said that the investigation committee was studying the responses it had received from the Education Ministry.
Bufarsan on 22 June said that his Committee had met a number of education officials to continue discussing the issue.
Media: Bufarsan was one of 5 MPs who proposed programmes on the TV for promoting family stability, the proposal was agreed by Parliament. (17 March)
Divorce: During a parliamentary discussion about levels of divorce in Bahrain on 16 June Bufarsan stressed the damage that divorce inflicts on families and the need to properly understand reasons for divorce, particularly given the high crime rates among those from divorced families.
Youth, culture & sport
On 2 February Bufarsan said that his Committee had agreed to proposals for establishing a youth centre in the 2nd Muharraq constituency. On 7 February Bufarsan announced additional youth centres for the Capital, Muharraq and Southern Governorates.
On 2 March Bufarsan stated that following through on the proposals from the parliamentary youth sports event the previous week was an “absolute priority”.
Bufarsan on 6 March praised the positive response given to his proposals for youth by the Chairman of the Defence Forces during a recent parliamentary debate. Bufarsan also warned that “a segment of the youth have deviated from the national moral path, we must help them back to the right approach”.
Bufarsan was one of 10 MPs who on 16 March proposed an open parliamentary debate with the relevant minister to discuss what the Government was doing to promote Bahraini sport and athletes. During this open debate, Bufarsan proposed cancelling utility bills for sports clubs and for other initiatives for encouraging sporting activity. (7 April)
Bufarsan on 29 April questioned the Youth and Sports Minister about plans for youth programmes.
Bufarsan’s Committee on 1 May called on amendments to unemployment insurance laws obliging employees to pay 1% of their wages. It also called on amendments to laws governing membership of sports and youth clubs.
Bufarsan on 22 April said that his Sports Committee had discussed its recent proposals regarding government policy on supporting Bahraini sport.
Bufarsan on 22 April put forward a formal question to the Sports Minister regarding levels of Government support for the football union and future plans for supporting youth & sport.
Bufursan on 1 June said that his Committee had discussed proposals to increase the share of Budget funding for sports. They also discussed a number of proposals for constructing sports facilities.
Bufarsan on 12 June called for greater funding for youth and sports. He suggested the cancellation of 5 Govt projects and increasing the Budget for youth to BD 20m.
Bufarsan said that on 15 June his Committee had discussed a number of proposals for sports facilities, including for bowling and snooker.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Affiliation: Bufarsan was reported to be part of a four-member National Bahrain Bloc in the Parliament (14 February).
- Standards of living, health & education – 8
- Housing & services – 5
- Policing & regional security – 5
- Good governance & public finance – 6
- Economy & employment – 4
- Supporting constituents & youth – 7
- Rights & freedoms – 4
- Constructive Parliament role – 7
- Public visibility – 8
- Progressive/reformist credentials – 4
Results of 2014 elections – 1st Muharraq
Areas covered: Busaiteen
Housing blocks: 225, 226, 228, 229
Registered voters: 8,071; Percentage 1st round voter turnout: 85.4%
First round vote:
Saadi Mohammed (Minbar) – 1986 (29.8%); Ali Bufarsan – 1567 (23.6%); Mohammed al-Hussaini – 1451 (21.8%); Ahmed al-Obaidli – 416 (6.3%); Ahmed Ashir – 397; Yahya al-Majdami – 345; Mohammed al-Qalalif – 226; Ahmed Aqqab – 153; Thani Rashidan – 115
Second round vote:
Ali Bufarsan – 3182 (54.2%)
Saadi Mohammed (Minbar) – 2691 (45.8%)
Profile of election campaign: Ali Isa Abdullah Ahmed Bufarsan
Ali Bufarsan has been a remarkable contender in one of the most competitive constituencies in Bahrain. He has consistently been one of the most visible candidates in the national media and his imaginative campaigning techniques have helped him see off several formidable opponents.
After coming second in the first round with 1,567 votes (against 1,986 votes for the Minbar candidate) he has somehow gone on to win the second round.
Bufarsan told Al-Watan newspaper that “people’s aspirations are focused on improving standards of living and the housing issue. They didn’t sense any important accomplishments from the previous Parliament in these matters”. Bufarsan also highlighted the importance of support for agriculture and fishing. He complained that fishermen in the Busaiteen area lacked any kind of support.
Bufarsan emphasized the “solutions” he possesses for improving healthcare facilities and for assisting those in society with special needs, such as the elderly, widows, orphans and the disabled. Bufarsan said he wanted to prioritize the issue of integrating young people into the jobs market, based on their merit and specializations, through supporting higher education and establishing mechanisms to facilitate job-seeking and recruitment.
A key event in this 1st Muharraq elections contest was the last-minute and surprise withdrawal of standing MP since 2002, Adel al-Moawdah. Although Al-Moawdah had resigned from Al-Asalah, he was still closely associated with the organization, so many pundits predicted that potential votes for Al-Moawdah would naturally go to Al-Minbar’s Dr. Saadi Mohammed.
Busaiteen is a proud and traditional Sunni locality on the northwest coast of Muharraq. Islamist parties have traditionally done well in this constituency. Voters will be looking for candidates who can vocally advocate their interests at a national level and support livelihoods, like the fishing industry.
Some pundits have cited the decline in support of Bahraini voters for established political groupings. One newspaper survey of local constituents discovered considerable frustration with the perceived performance of previous MPs, saying that there was a desire for candidates who could demonstrate that they sought “the public interest, not personal interests”.
However, the 85.4% first round turnout shows a local public who were highly engaged by this contest and who felt passionate about coming out and supporting their candidates, while renewing their engagement with the political process.
Know your deputy: MPs profiles
Adel al-Asoumi – 1st Capital
Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ahmed Qaratah – 2nd Capital
Adel Bin-Hamid Abdulhussain – 3rd Capital
Abdulrahman Bumjaid – 4th Capital
Nasser al-Qaseer – 5th Capital
Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Ali al-Atish – 6th Capital
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Osamah al-Khajah – 7th Capital
Shaikh Majid al-Asfour – 8th Capital
Mohammed Jaffar Milad – 9th Capital
Nabil al-Balooshi – 10th Capital
Ali Bufarsan – 1st Muharraq
Ibrahim al-Hammadi – 2nd Muharraq
Jamal Buhassan – 3rd Muharraq
Isa al-Kooheji – 4th Muharraq
Mohammed al-Jowder – 5th Muharraq
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Deputy-Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Abbas al-Madhi – 6th Muharraq
Ali al-Muqla – 7th Muharraq
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 8th Muharraq
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Fatimah al-Asfour – 1st Northern
Deputy Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh – 2nd Northern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Hamad al-Dossary – 3rd Northern
Deputy Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ghazi Al Rahmah – 4th Northern
Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ali al-Aradi – 5th Northern
Deputy Chairman of Parliament
Rua al-Haiki – 6th Northern
Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Shaikh Majid al-Majid – 7th Northern
Dr. Isa Turki – 8th Northern
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar – 9th Northern
Mohammed al-Ammadi – 10th Northern
Chairman of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Jamal Dawoud – 11th Northern
Jamila al-Sammak – 12th Northern
Khalid al-Shaer – 1st Southern
Mohammed al-Ahmed – 2nd Southern
Abdulhalim Murad – 3rd Southern
Second Deputy Chairman of Parliament
Mohammed al-Maarifi – 4th Southern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Services
Khalifa al-Ghanim – 5th Southern
Anas Buhindi – 6th Southern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Abdullah Bin-Huwail – 7th Southern
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Dhiyab al-Noaimi – 8th Southern
Mohsin al-Bakri – 9th Southern
Deputy Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ahmed al-Mulla – 10th Southern
Chairman of Parliament