Al-Kooheji: “I must stress the importance of efforts to increase productivity and counter administrative and financial corruption.”
Member of the Permanent Committee for Services (from Oct 2015)
Member of Government Action Plan Committee (Jan-Feb 2015)
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs (Nov 2014 – Oct 2015)
During June 2015 Al-Kooheji, as Chairman of the Parliament Finance Committee was a pivotal figure in the negotiations with the Government for revising the 2015-16 State Budget to ensure the inclusion of services, welfare payments and projects of fundamental importance to the public.
When the final Budget draft was put to the vote in Parliament on 2 July 2015 Al-Kooheji played a central role in rallying the support of MPs for the document and ensuring that the significant achievements of this Budget were recognized. During this special parliamentary session Al-Kooheji called on MPs to vote in favour, citing the increase in benefits to citizens enshrined in the document and the need to rein in Government spending.
Although an overwhelming majority of MPs early on in the Parliament rejected additional Government borrowing, Al-Kooheji was one of the first MPs to realize that further borrowing would be needed to avoid the radical curtailment of services to citizens. Although three-quarters of MPs in the March 2015 vote rejected an increase in the debt ceiling (despite Al-Kooheji urging them not to reject this); by the time of the 2 July 2015 vote on the same issue, a comfortable majority of MPs voted in support of increasing the debt ceiling to BD 7bn.
However, in October 2015 at the beginning of the new parliamentary term, the big story was a coup launched by a number of MPs enforcing radical changes on the membership of the Finance Committee. Al-Kooheji and two of his colleagues, Al-Shaer and Al-Qaseer, were forced out of the Committee and Abdulrahman Bu-Ali was instated as the Chairman. Al-Kooheji moved to the Services Committee.
In the wake of these parliamentary tensions, relatively little was heard from Al-Kooheji throughout late summer and autumn 2015.
Al-Kooheji is one of the longest-serving figures in the current Parliament and therefore speaks with authority and influence on a range of matters. In 2014 he won his seat outright in the first round with over 50% of the vote. Al-Kooheji is one of the more effective users of the social media in the Parliament.
On key issues of concern, like housing and health fees, he is often outspoken and articulate in criticizing the positions of Government ministers. Al-Kooheji has spoken out strongly about wastage of government revenues and the failure of ministers to address issues of poor financial administration.
Although Al-Kooheji’s positions are broadly in line with the consensus of other MPs, he will sometimes take a differing viewpoint on controversial issues. For example, he defended the rights of employers not to be forced to prefer Bahraini candidates. As a businessman himself, Al-Kooheji has consistently advocated the cause of Bahraini businesses.
In May 2015, Al-Kooheji came out in support of controversial measures for transferring government lands to the Housing Ministry for new housing projects. In late May Al-Kooheji proposed a 200BD monthly allowance for women over the age of 40 who were widows, divorcees or without the support of a family.
During the 2010-2014 Parliament, Al-Kooheji was a member of the “Bahrain Independents” Bloc, along with current MPs Al-Asoumi, Bin-Huwail and Al-Mulla.
ACTIVITY DURING 2015-2016 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Housing: During a parliamentary debate on 13 Oct in which the Housing Minister was present, Al-Kooheji got into a heated exchange with the Minister, who criticized Al-Kooheji for talking about the existence of a “political crisis”. Al-Kooheji stated that the Govt lacked a plan for addressing the housing issue.
Standards of living, health & education
Food standards: Al-Kooheji on 18 July clarified that he didn’t on principle oppose further legislation related to food standards, but he was against the creation of new institutions which would increase the financial burden on Bahrainis.
Economy & employment
Trade: During the 24 Nov parliamentary session, a proposal by Al-Asoumi, Al-Kooheji, Al-Jowder and Al-Ammadi was approved, for obliging the Commerce Ministry to provide a record of non-implemented trade registrations, and action taken against those residing illegally in Bahrain.
Good governance & public finance
Audit report: Al-Kooheji on 17 July observed that the parliamentary cycle had ended with the referral of the Financial Audit Bureau report to the Public Prosecution, in particular the cases where there was an element of “criminal suspicion”. He pledged that Parliament would “do our utmost to protect public funds”.
Bonuses: Al-Kooheji on 11 Nov said that that the leadership of public sector authorities should not be entitled to be receiving additional bonuses, particularly as many of them were occupying ceremonial positions. Al-Kooheji on 12 Nov welcomed the Govt’s agreement with the parliamentary proposal for halting bonuses for local authority officials for two years, to reduce Govt expenditure. He said that this was a positive step, but should have come sooner.
Public debt: During the 17 Nov debate on the proposal to limit the debt ceiling to 60% of GDP, Isa al-Kooheji said that MPs should be informed what approving this law would mean for Bahrain. The Finance Minister replied that this would entail that each time the Government wanted to borrow money, it would be forced to come back to Parliament every time and request approval.
Policing & regional security
Security: Al-Kooheji on 13 Aug issued a statement praising the Interior Ministry for apprehending those accused of involvement in the recent Sitra attack which killed two policemen.
Terrorism: Al-Kooheji on 31 Aug strongly condemned the Al-Karranah bombing which killed one policeman. He said that such an attack aimed to stir internal divisions and conflict.
Yemen: Al-Kooheji on 4 Sep extended his condolences over the deaths of 5 Bahraini soldiers and other GCC troops in Yemen. He said that this sacrifice must be remembered.
Youth, culture & sport
Youth: On 19 Oct, the media reported Al-Kooheji’s participation in a youth conference in Geneva, coinciding with the International Parliament.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Democracy: During his participation in a parliamentary delegation to the UK, Al-Kooheji on 27 July said that democracy varied from one country to another and the idea of implementing a single form of democracy everywhere was a mistake.
Parliament: During a 2 Sep parliamentary workshop event Al-Kooheji emphasized the legislative and oversight roles of MPs and the importance of cooperation with the Govt.
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.
The Parliament Administration had initially refused petitions for altering the members of this Committee, but were forced to concede in the face of strong pressure from numerous MPs. The formation of the National Bloc and the Accord Bloc seem to have been instrumental in coordination the positions of MPs to establish a united front opposing Al-Kooheji’s continued tenure.
During the 10 November vote on committee membership, Muhsin al-Bakri gained 32 votes, Anas Buhindi gained 28 votes, Rua al-Haiki gained 25 votes, Jamila al-Sammak gained 22 votes and Fatimah al-Asfour gained 21 votes for seats on the Women and Children Committee, while Jamal Buhassan failed to gain entry with only 15 votes.
During the 10 November vote on committee membership, three MPs pulled out of the Palestine Committee (Isa al-Kooheji, Adel Bin-Hamid and Majid al-Majid), leaving behind only former Chairman Mohammed al-Ammadi, Ahmed Qaratah and new member Mohammed al-Ahmed.
Affiliation: According to several media sources on 13 October, around 13 MPs are moving to form a parliamentary bloc. These are Jalal al-Mahfoudh, Ghazi Al Rahmah, Nasir al-Qaseer, Abbas al-Madhi, Khalid al-Shaer, Adel Bin-Hamid, Majid al-Majid, Majid al-Asfour, Isa al-Kooheji, Jamila al-Sammak, Fatima al-Asfour and Ali al-Aradi, with Hamad al-Dossary indicated as being the head of the bloc, with “unanimous” agreement.
On 14 November 2015 Hamad al-Dossary announced that he had been selected as the leader of a new bloc, with Adel Bin-Hamid as his deputy. Al-Kooheji’s name was not on the list of 10 declared members, but reportedly talks are still continuing about the composition of the grouping.
Private bills: During the 17 Nov MPs once again responded angrily to a new set of responses from the Government rejecting almost all of their proposals which had been submitted as private bills. Al-Kooheji urged the Govt to take his proposal seriously for transferring ownership of public land to the Housing Ministry for construction projects. He said that the Govt had replied to most of these proposals by claiming that they were “impossible” to implement.
ACTIVITY DURING 2014-2015 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Housing: On 12 January Al-Kooheji requested from the Ministry of Housing information about ongoing projects in his local 4th Muharraq constituency.
On 24 February Al-Kooheji confronted the Housing Minister in Parliament, complaining that the statistics he had presented concerning the 4th Muharraq constituency housing projects were vague and accusing him of not giving proper answers to formally submitted questions.
“The housing file is the most significant priority during the current phase as requests for housing provision mount up… along with the importance of infrastructure projects and enhancing the role of GCC aid.” (8 March)
During a 17 March debate about housing rights and benefits, Al-Kooheji stressed the importance of precedence in deciding who should be prioritized for housing.
During the 5 May parliamentary session, MPs approved a proposal for transferring ownership of land suitable for building to the Housing Ministry for construction projects – a move contested by the Government. Al-Kooheji commented: “I don’t understand why ministries fight over lands. These lands are not theirs but belong to citizens.”
Al-Kooheji on 9 May said in a statement that the transfer of lands to the Housing Ministry “solved the housing problem”. He said that there needed to be a “fundamental addressing of the housing crisis” and rejected partial solutions. He said that this required ministries to work together. He said that there was plenty of land, but that it was being utilized for other less important purposes.
Construction: Al-Kooheji put forward a private bill on 12 May calling for a halt to the “Imarat” project in Muharraq. The proposal was co-sponsored by Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Khaled al-Shaer, Mohammed al-Maarifi and Dhiyab al-Noaimi. They cited the lack of parking space and public areas in that locality.
During the 19 May parliamentary session, the Housing Minister responded to an “urgent” bill submitted by a number of MPs, including Al-Kooheji calling for a halt to the project, because it was causing congestion around the nearby mosque. The proposal to halt the project was criticized by MP Adel al-Asoumi and two MPs, Khalid al-Shaer and Dhiyab al-Noaimi withdrew their co-sponsorship of the proposal. Al-Kooheji said that he agreed in principle with the Minister and the need for large housing projects, but there was a need to check whether certain projects were viable and this project was causing upset for local people.
Heritage: Al-Kooheji has called for the renovation of older areas of Bahrain, with the aim of preserving their “Bahraini identity”. (21 February)
Traffic: On 5 April Al-Kooheji questioned the Interior Minister about how car registration plates with unusual numbers were distributed.
Al-Kooheji on 31 May proposed a walkway from Muharraq to the Manama coast.
Fire: Al-Kooheji on 30 April called for investigations to find the cause of a fire in Muharraq, noting the “contradictory rumors” circulating about the incident.
Standards of living, health & education
Standards of living: On 2 February Al-Kooheji questioned the Ministry of Social Development on levels of support for families of his 4th Muharraq constituency.
Health fees: Al-Kooheji during the 17 February parliamentary session was among the MPs who strongly criticized the Ministry of Health’s new measures. He said that it violated the constitutional principle of equality and was purely targeted against the private sector.
Welfare benefits: On 7 April during the parliamentary session the Social Development Minister responded to Al-Kooheji’s question about the number of families being assisted by the Ministry. Al-Kooheji commented that the poverty line is unclear, if 40% of people are on benefits.
Widows: Al-Kooheji on 30 May proposed a 200BD monthly allowance for women over the age of 40 who were widows, divorcees or without the support of a family.
Meat subsidies: Al-Kooheji on 18 May said that the Financial Committee still hadn’t received the formal; proposals regarding the recent Government decision for providing support to Bahrainis for purchasing meat.
During the 2 June open parliamentary debate on planned subsidy cuts, Al-Kooheji demanded a clear strategy from the Govt for subsidy reform along with timescales and details. He said that in this way, MPs could be a partner in the process and not find out about it through the media. He noted that electricity subsidies were an easier place to start, because bills for foreigners were easier to distinguish and this would make far greater savings.
Public Authority for Food: On 16 June MPs voted in favour of a proposal for the establishment of a public authority for food, despite the opposition of the Govt to the idea. Al-Kooheji called for the proposal to be sent back for further study, as it necessitated the “widening of the executive branch”.
Economy & employment
Bahraini workers: During the 24 February parliamentary debate concerning the Shura Council’s rejection of proposals to prefer Bahraini workers for jobs, Al-Kooheji was the only MP who spoke out against these proposals, citing the rights of businessmen to hire and fire who they choose.
Foreign labour: Al-Kooheji led the call from 15 MPs for a public debate about the issue of unregistered labourers under the so-called “free visa” system. (Other MPs: Al- al-Aradi, Jamal Dawoud, Jalal al-Mahfoudh, Abdullah Bin-Huwail, Abbas al-Madhi, Ghazi Al Rahmah, Adel Bin-Hamid, Nasir al-Qaseer, Khalid al-Shaer, Majid al-Majid, Anas Buhindi, Hamad al-Dossary, Mohammed al-Jowder, Abdulrahman Bu-Ali).
Pearl monitoring: During a stormy 10 March parliamentary debate over a bill for privatizing monitoring the quality of pearls and precious stones, Al-Kooheji said that this was a good initiative for opening up the role to private sector companies.
Fishing: During the 19 May parliamentary debate on the fishing industry, Al-Kooheji opened the discussion, noting that fishing was one of the most important industries to Bahrain, and one of the nation’s oldest professions. He discussed the six month ban on fishing for shrimp and the effect this was having on fishing families, criticizing the “rushed decisions taken by some ministries”.
Economic & financial disputes: During the 17 parliamentary session to discuss the amended practices for the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution, Al-Kooheji noted that the urgency of these measures was because the disputes involved concerned billions of dinars.
Finance committee: Al-Kooheji said that on 1 April his committee discussed the proposal for subsidizing gas to citizens and forcing large public companies to pay the full market price. The Committee reviewed the financial accounts for the previous Parliament; as well as measures for approving agreements between Bahrain and Pakistan for protecting investments; and an agreement with Russia for encouraging investment.
Al-Kooheji on 22 April said that his Committee had discussed a private bill for increasing benefits for pensioners and reducing utility costs. The Committee sent the bill to the full Parliament recommending approval. The Committee also met the head of the Cultural Authority, Shaika Mai to discuss proposals for preserving the pearling heritage in Muharraq.
Al-Kooheji on 10 May said that his committee had discussed a range of issues including regulations concerning housing for foreign workers and the setting up of an anti-corruption commission.
Trade: Al-Kooheji on 4 May noted that there would soon be changes to the measures governing the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These proposals are being debated by his Committee.
Isa al-Kooheji on 28 May, along with Mohammed al-Ammadi, Adel al-Asoumi, Abdulrahman Bu-Ali and Mohammed al-Jowder, proposed a measure obligating the Ministry of Trade and Industry to issue quarterly reports on unimplemented trade registrations and cases of illegal residency.
Good governance & public finance
Action Plan: Al-Kooheji was initially highly critical of the 2015-2018 Government Action Plan, which he said lacked detail, timescales and budgetary considerations, and at an early stage seemed to be lobbying against approval of the draft. However, he was one of the 37 deputies who approved the Plan on 3 February.
“The Committee’s handling of the Budget issue will be different this year. The Committee will seek to benefit from its assembled expertise and previous reports, as well as engaging with economic entities and trade personalities… there will be a series of consultative meetings with the Government team concerned with the Budget to arrive at a consensus vision… the parliamentary committee will be particularly concerned with efforts to increase diversification of government revenues; better-targeting spending; and addressing government debt.” (8 March)
Audit report: Al-Kooheji’s Financial Committee on 2 March extensively discussed the annual audit report. Al-Kooheji said that the Committee would be putting forward its recommendations and observations in a few days. During the 3 March parliamentary session Al-Kooheji called for the formation of a committee to address this issue. 31 MPs voted in favour.
Al-Kooheji said that the committee recommendations on follow up measures for the audit report would be likely to include interrogations, investigation committees, the submission of some cases to the public prosecutor, as well as questioning ministers about abuses in their departments. (4 March)
Al-Kooheji on 11 March said that there would be no interrogation of several ministers over the audit report, because of the Cabinet changes.
Al-Kooheji: “I must stress the importance of efforts to increase productivity and to counter administrative and financial corruption… this can play a role in diverting more funds to the Public Budget and reducing the national debt”. (8 March interview)
Al-Kooheji: “I am astonished by illogical behaviour from the Financial Ministry to hide any problems and challenges… the budget deficit, limited revenues and reduced oil prices can never be a hook for the Government to hang its mistakes on, allowing it to stop, refuse or delay the implementation of projects affecting levels of Government support to citizens”. Al-Kooheji criticized the heavily subsidized provision of gas to large national companies like Alba, which obscured their actual profits when set against the cost to the nation. (8 March interview)
On 30 March Al-Kooheji told the media that his Financial Committee had dealt with the audit report without “any reservations” and that MPs’ approach with this report differed fundamentally from previous years. Al-Kooheji cited the “enthusiasm” of his committee members for the transparent approach of addressing all the issues raised and holding violators to account”.
During the 31 March parliamentary debate in which it was decided to delay further discussion on the Audit report because key ministers had failed to attend; Al-Kooheji noted the “more than 300 hours” his committee had been working on preparing their response to the report. He criticized ministers for not attending and voiced his support for a delay until ministers could be present.
During the 14 April parliamentary debate concerning the annual Audit report Al-Kooheji said that his Financial Committee had studied the report and found 51 violations “with a criminal suspicion”, which were estimated to amount to around 325 million BD and included a broad range of government departments.
Al-Kooheji in a 27 April statement described the transfer of the violations cited in the Audit report as a “victory for transparency and an important turning point for protecting public money”.
On 30 April Al-Bilad published an article by Al-Kooheji stressing the importance of Parliament’s handling of the Audit report.
Minister interrogation: During the 5 May parliamentary session an insufficient number of MPs voted in support of interrogating the Health Minister over issues raised in the Audit report (23 supported, below the 2/3 quota of 27 MPs).Al-Kooheji voted in favour of the interrogation.
Finance Committee: Al-Kooheji said that on 4 March his committee had rejected a proposal for issuing “development bonds”, given the current economic conditions. He said that the Committee had completed its discussion of the audit report, which would be submitted to the Parliament administration. The Committee has also approved amendments for monitoring pearls and precious stones, with the aim of Bahrain becoming once again an international centre for natural pearls.
On 18 March Al-Kooheji’s committee discussed the Future Generations Fund; a proposal for quarterly Financial Audit Bureau reports.
In a 7 July press conference to mark the end of the parliamentary year, Al-Kooheji complained about the lack of responsiveness by the Government on a series of queries and proposals raised by the Committee, including 26 issues which he said were still awaiting responses. Al-Kooheji also cited the achievements of the Finance Committee, stressing the importance of the Committee’s work on the Budget and Financial Audit Bureau report, as well as around the issue of the debt ceiling. He said that the Committee had addressed 19 files, including legal statutes, draft bills and parliamentary proposals.
Public debt: During the 10 March parliamentary session Al-Kooheji said that Government debt levels stood at 5.6bn BD, 45.3% of GDP. He said that the parliamentary draft bill imposed a ceiling of 60% and warned that subsequent generations would have to cope with the implications of increasing levels of debt.
The session on the public debt bill saw a dispute between Ali al-Asoumi and Isa al-Kooheji after a mechanical fault in the voting system led Al-Kooheji to demand a re-vote due to the vote being recorded for an absent deputy (Rua al-Haiki). Al-Asoumi objected, saying that another vote would make no difference to the majority decision to send the draft public debt bill back to the Finance Committee. The Parliament Chairman overruled him and demanded a second vote during the next week’s session.
The parliamentary Finance Committee headed by Isa al-Kooheji had itself recommended against a rise in the debt ceiling. However, following an intervention by Finance Ministry officials, Isa al-Kooheji and others from the Committee unsuccessfully called for the proposal to go back to the Finance Committee for further discussion. Twenty-eight MPs (versus five) on 24 March rejected sending the proposal back for further consultation, after which an overwhelming majority of MPs voted against an increase in the debt ceiling to 7bn BD.
During this parliamentary session Al-Kooheji said that during lengthy meetings with the Finance Minister, the Minister had argued against imposing debt limits until MPs had seen the budget. Al-Kooheji told his colleagues: “We seek the interests of the public and the nation. We must give these two priorities our consideration. Withdraw the bill and we will await the budget”.
On 25 March Al-Kooheji warned that the decision by Parliament to maintain debt levels would result in the Government cutting promised benefits, like housing support and funds for low income families to cover against inflation.
According to Al-Watan on 14 May Al-Kooheji was one of the 20 MPs who said that they would give conditional support to raising the debt ceiling to 7bn BD. During the 2 July parliamentary session when a majority of 18 MPs approved an increase in the debt ceiling to BD 7bn, Al-Kooheji voted in support.
Budget: On 9 February Al-Kooheji discussed the parliamentary strategy for discussing the 2015-2016 Budget, stressing the need to balance the needs of citizens with financial constraints, as well as the importance of Parliament’s role in monitoring the effective spending of the Budget on priority projects.
Al-Kooheji on 11 May said that his Finance Committee had met and discussed the framework for debating the Budget. He said that government departments had been contacted with requests for information about revenues and spending.
On 13 May Al-Kooheji’s Finance Committee formally received the 2015-16 State Budget. Al-Kooheji noted that there would be a series of meetings with Govt officials to discuss the details of the Budget. Regarding the proposed extension of the debt ceiling. Al-Kooheji said: “We have looked over the state revenues and expenditure in the draft Budget and the truth is that if we want to implement the Government Action Plan then there is no alternative to borrowing, on condition of confirmation of how the national debt will be paid off. I stress that the most important point for us is non-infringement on the benefits due to citizens”.
Al-Kooheji on 17 May said that 23 questions had been directed to the Government from his Committee concerning issues requiring clarification.
Al-Kooheji on 18 May was widely quoted by the media demanding “convincing answers” for why counter-inflationary support had been reduced in the Budget. He noted that a large number of questions had been directed to various ministries concerning issues raised in the Budget.
Al-Kooheji’s Committee on 3 June once again discussed the Budget. He said that the Committee on 4 June would assemble the information and conclusions arrived at so far, to put before other MPs and seek their opinions.
Throughout June, Al-Kooheji, as a key figure within the joint CoR/Shura Finance Committee continued to engage with Govt representatives and raise proposals and queries regarding the Budget. Al-Kooheji told the media that the joint Financial Committee had agreed to increase the housing budget to BD 100m.
On 29 June Al-Kooheji chaired an extensive press conference with his Finance Committee colleagues during which he presented the achievements of the Budget, including an additional BD 360 for pensioners; further support for the disabled and massive housing projects.
During the 2 July special parliamentary session in which a small majority of MPs voted to approve the State Budget, Al-Kooheji expressed his regret at the “rumours, gossip and numerous press statements aimed at whipping up people’s emotions” over the days before the Budget was passed. He stated that it was untrue that the Budget offered no benefits for the public; “I can confirm the preservation of the past benefits accorded to citizens and the inclusion of many new benefits, such as giving pensioners BD 360… We spent 1,500 hours in the Committee discussing the State Budget and the late submission of the draft Budget put pressure on the Committee”. He noted the reduction in state support for Gulf Air and the 15% reduction in the budgets for ministries, the additional funds for public services and the inclusion of the Housing Bank as part of the State Budget. Al-Kooheji warned MPs that failing to pass the Budget would benefit the Govt, which would then be able to spend unchecked.
Bonuses: On 9 May, Isa al-Kooheji, Jamal Buhassan, Ahmed Qaratah and Mohammed al-Jowder proposed outlawing annual bonuses in government departments.
MPs’ benefits: On 12 May, Parliament voted to delay two weeks the vote on modifying retirement payments for MPs. Al-Kooheji cited the need to support the 2011 by-election MPs who weren’t entitled to benefits and having lost their seats were now unemployed. However, he said there was no need to raise the ceiling level for benefits.
Upcoming generations fund: Parliament on 12 May approved the closing budget for the fund, as directed by the Finance Committee. However, Isa al-Kooheji criticized the competence of those managing the fund and the low levels of revenues generated. He stressed the need for a dedicated and skilled staff to manage the fund.
Subsidies: Al-Kooheji on 1 June pointed out that halting electricity subsidies for non-Bahrainis would save much greater amounts of money that for meat subsidies. He stressed the need for reform of the subsidies system and the position of MPs in rejecting any measures which adversely affect Bahrainis.
Al–Kooheji stressed the need for a “comprehensive plan” for reforming subsidies in order to protect citizens.
Policing & regional security
Ex-Military restrictions: In the 24 February parliamentary vote preventing former army personnel from taking military jobs overseas, Al-Kooheji said that ultimately security had to come before human rights concerns. Ali al-Aradi disagreed with him, saying that the measures took into account human rights considerations.
Foreign relations: Al-Kooheji stressed the importance of Bahraini-UK relations during his meeting with the British Ambassador, along with MPs Majid al-Majid, Jamila al-Sammak, Khalid al-Shaer and Nasir al-Qaseer. (7 March)
Drugs: Al-Kooheji on 25 May proposed a 500BD reward for individuals who informed the police about drug dealers.
Rights & freedoms
Media: On 26 January Al-Kooheji participated in the “This is Bahrain” event in Belgium, stating that “Bahrain is a nation of coexistence and tolerance which respects human rights”.
Women: Al-Kooheji on 22 April stressed the importance of the role of the Supreme Council for Women and the need for greater coordination from the Parliament to empower women in Bahraini society.
Children: Al-Kooheji received a delegation of Turkish school children on 23 April, marking Turkish Children’s Day. He stressed Parliament’s work to address issues affecting children in Bahrain.
Youth, culture & sport
Sport: During a 7 April open parliamentary debate about sport in Bahrain Al-Kooheji highlighted Bahrain’s sporting failures: “We have never won the Gulf Cup”. He blamed the lack of any sporting strategy for upgrading abilities.
Grand Prix: Al-Kooheji on 20 April praised the success of the F1, noting the huge amount of global coverage Bahrain had enjoyed for this period. Al-Kooheji called for more sports events to be hosted in Bahrain.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Private members’ bills: During the 7 April parliamentary session MPs voted to commit the Government to a time limit for implementing proposals submitted by MPs and agreed on by Parliament. Al-Kooheji stressed that proposals put forward by MPs gave voice to the aspirations of the citizens they represent. Therefore the Government should take these seriously and address them with urgency.
European Parliament: Al-Kooheji on 13 April met with an EU Parliament delegation as part of his role of head of a joint GCC delegation that will meet with its EU counterparts in Brussels. MPs Isa Turki and Jamal Buhassan also participated. Al-Kooheji on 24 April during the delegation to Brussels stressed the importance of widening ties between the GCC and the EU Parliament.
- Standards of living, health & education – 5
- Housing & services – 7
- Policing & regional security– 4
- Good governance & public finance – 9
- Economy & employment – 8
- Supporting constituents & youth – 5
- Rights & freedoms – 4
- Constructive Parliament role – 9
- Public visibility – 8
- Progressive/reformist credentials – 6
Results of 2014 elections – 4th Muharraq
Areas covered: Muharraq central
Housing blocks: 207, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217
Registered voters: 7,904; Percentage 1st round voter turnout: 78.7%
Contest decided by outright win in the first round of voting.
First round votes:
Isa al-Kooheji (MP) – 3022 (50.8%)
Rima Halal – 887 (14.9%); Abdullah al-Aynati (NUG) – 675 (11.4%); Hamad al-Mearaj – 590 (9.9%); Majid al-Atawi – 196; Mohammed al-Murbati – 422; Mohammed Khayami – 154;
Profile of election campaign: Isa Abduljabbar Mahmoud al-Kooheji
Prominent independent incumbent Isa al-Kooheji succeeded in fighting off the National Unity Gathering representative, Ambassador Abdullah al-Aynati; and a number of independent rivals. Although Al-Kooheji was the obvious favourite to win, few people would have predicted how strong his victory would be.
Al-Kooheji stressed that the role of independents had been clearly proven in past parliamentary performance. Al-Kooheji obtained around 58% of the vote in the 2010 elections. Al-Kooheji had not been one of the faces appearing regularly in the media during this contest, apparently relying more on his parliamentary record.
Credit has to go to Rima Halal as the only female candidate in Muharraq Governorate. She ended up coming second against some very competitive rivals. Such a result puts her in a strong position for competing in future rounds of elections.
These urban areas of Muharraq Island can be expected to favour an independent loyalist candidate. However a dense patchwork of local communities have to be taken into account; Hawala, Bahrani, Ajam and tribal Arabian. Thus, we find a slightly more cosmopolitan range of candidates than in other central parts of Muharraq, including the only female candidate in Muharraq, Rima Halal.
This is one of the oldest areas of Muharraq Island and so contains historically important sites. There are many critical social issues needing addressing including poverty, unemployment and poor quality of some older housing.
Commentators have noted the difficult of predicting this contest because of the lack of a clear “political ideology” among this diverse community. Liberals, progressives, Salafists, Brotherhood supporters can all be found here.
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