Al-Jowder: “On the legislative side, there has been wide-ranging usage of available legislative tools. Regarding the regulatory role, it is true that no minister has yet been interrogated. However, many investigative committees have been formed and in general I think that the first parliamentary term was about feeling the pulse between MPs and ministers”
Al-Jowder: “The Minister claims that there isn’t wastage of funds. So what shall we call it? Should we call it theft then?”
Member of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security affairs
Member of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Member of the Committee for Women and Children
Member of Government Action Plan Committee (Jan-Feb 2015)
Al-Jowder has shown a willingness to be outspoken and question Government policies where he feels that the interests of his constituents have been neglected.
During Al-Jowder’s 2014 election campaign he highlighted an imaginative range of issues. He has continued to pursue many of these issues, for example, the importance of providing care for the disabled and elderly.
Al-Jowder is an articulate figure on national security issues. He regularly comments about regional affairs and the need to counter terrorism at home and abroad.
On several issues being voted on by the Parliament – like the Government Action Plan and employment restrictions on ex-military personnel – Al-Jowder can be outspoken about the nature of these proposals, but tended to vote in line with the majority of his colleagues.
However, Al-Jowder voted against the State Budget during the 2 July 2015 session and during the same session was one of a minority of MPs voting against an increase in the debt ceiling.
ACTIVITY DURING 2015-2016 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Good governance & public finance
Budget: Al-Jowder on 6 July praised the role of the Parliament Chairman in passing the Budget. He said that Ahmed al-Mulla’s “transparency” had allowed the Budget to be passed without any pressure exerted on MPs. He said that the Budget went a significant way to addressing many aspirations of citizens, affirming his hope that the proposals would be implemented in full.
Policing & regional security
National unity: Al-Jowder on 19 July praised the reality of coexistence and tolerance in Bahraini society between the sects, warning that those who placed their hopes on foreign interference were doomed to fail.
Saudi Arabia: Al-Jowder on 12 July conveyed his condolences on the passing of former Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who he said had protected Bahrain from evil plotters.
Extremism: Al-Jowder on 1 Aug blamed Israel for exporting ISIS’s ideology, with Iranian complicity.
Iran: Al-Jowder on 23 July condemned statements by the Iranian leadership concerning Bahrain, which he described as interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs. Al-Jowder on a statement on 10 Aug said that Iran was seeking to recruit client networks in Bahrain and the region, through stirring up sectarian discord. He praised the democratic freedoms available in Bahrain and lacking in Iran.
Terrorism: Al-Jowder on 26 July condemned the recent attack in Sitra which killed 2 policemen. Al-Jowder on 6 Aug condemned the mosque attack in Abha Saudi Arabia.
Yemen: Al-Jowder on 4 Sep extended his condolences over the deaths of 5 Bahraini soldiers and other GCC troops in Yemen. He stressed Parliament’s support for the GCC coalition.
Rights & freedoms
Disabled: Al-Jowder on 19 July called for implementation of proposed new programmes for the disabled, to improve standards of living and integrate them into society.
Religion: Al-Jowder on 13 July said that the joint Sunni – Shia prayers in several mosques “confirmed the unity of Bahrain against the enemies of the Muslim nation”.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Parliament: Al-Jowder on 9 Sep took part in a round-table debate for Al-Ayam newspaper regarding the performance of Parliament so far. He stressed the achievements of MPs so far, despite the fact that so many MPs were new, noting 300 proposals submitted by MPs and the additional citizens’ benefits included in the Budget and Action plan “after a lot of pressure from deputies”, while pointing out that he had voted against the Budget for not going far enough. He responded to the criticism that MPs spent too long on municipal services issue, pointing out that municipal councilors often approached local MPs asking for support on these issues and that both parties frequently worked hand in hand. He added: “On the legislative side, there has been wide-ranging usage of available legislative tools. Regarding the regulatory role, it is true that no minister has yet been interrogated. However, many investigative committees have been formed and in general, I think that the first parliamentary term was about feeling the pulse between MPs and ministers.”
ACTIVITY DURING 2014-2015 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Housing: On 25 January Al-Jowder proposed changing the name of the Hidd housing project to “King Abdullah Town” in honour of the deceased Saudi monarch.
On 21 Feb Al-Jowder issued a statement calling for measures to prevent bachelors from renting accommodation in localities designated for Bahraini families. He cited incidents where women or families had suffered harassment from groups of bachelors and criticized the “greed” of landlords in cramming numerous unmarried males into small apartments without consideration for local residents.
During the 21 April parliamentary session, the Oil Minister responded to a query by Al-Jowder about the safe distance between housing and oil infrastructure. Al-Jowder criticized the current proximity of the installations to housing in Arad and the associated environmental and health problems and expressed his hope that the installations could be moved, despite the Ministers protestations at the costs involved.
Housing benefit: Al-Jowder was one of five MPs who proposed increasing housing allowance from 100 to 200 BD, the proposal was debated and approved in Parliament on 17 March.
Traffic: Al-Jowder on 5 April called for a reassessment of recent measures restricting access of taxis in public transport centres, warning that these measures should not have an impact on the incomes of citizens.
Standards of living, health & education
Health: On 31 January Al-Jowder questioned the policy of the Health Ministry in not keeping health centres in Muharraq open until late at night.
Al-Jowder during the 2 June parliamentary session noted that health costs for foreigners in Muharraq hospitals exceeded BD 4m, compared with nearly BD 12m spent on Bahrainis. He said that these costs were a waste. Al-Jowder’s response followed a reply by the Health Minister to questions he had submitted. Al-Jowder also criticized the closure of health centres during public holidays, comparing the long queues of patients at the few centres that remained open to the queues of people waiting to vote in elections.
Disabled: Al-Jowder on 16 April called on the Government to take the disabled into account in its forthcoming budget, to ease their integration into society and the economy. He praised the efforts of the Ministries of Social Development and Education for supporting the disabled.
Teachers: Al-Jowder on 8 May raised the issue that night school teachers in many cases hadn’t been paid since September. Al-Jowder stressed the obvious harm this did for teachers’ morale and education standards. Al-Jowder on 29 May called on the Education Minister to address pay and benefits issues concerning teachers of evening classes.
Services: During the 12 May parliamentary session around 15 proposals previously submitted by MPs were approved in a series of votes. These included constructing a petrol station in Qalali.
Al-Jowder on 14 May met the Minister for Social Development and they discussed the Ministry’s plan for widening the scope of services provided to citizens.
Meat subsidies: During the 26 May parliamentary discussion, a majority of MPs spoke out against the Govt’s plan for halting meat subsidies. Al-Jowder said, “We were seeking enhancing the benefits of citizens when we came to this council. It’s a dangerous decision that humiliates Bahraini citizens.”
Economy & employment
Foreign workers: During the 3 March parliamentary debate on the so-called “free visa” system”, Al-Jowder said that many of these workers “were unconscious the whole day because of consuming alcohol” as well as getting into fights and perpetrating sexual assaults.
Nurseries: During the 17 March parliamentary session Al-Jowder supported the proposal for increasing the wages of nursery employees.
Schools: Al-Jowder during the 16 June parliamentary session complained that there wasn’t a school serving the Qalali area. He called on the Education Ministry to provide land for a school.
Aviation: Al-Jowder on 25 April raised the case of a batch of 63 engineers trained by Tamkeen for Gulf Air several years ago, but who were then refused employment.
Good governance & public finance
Action Plan: On 13 January Al-Jowder spoke about his participation in the meeting with ministers to discuss the Government Action Plan. However, he refused to give details, saying that the ministers themselves had not given details about their proposals.
On the 27 January parliamentary session Al-Jowder spoke out against extending the work of the Government Action Plan Committee, saying that recent statements from the Information Minister had “belittled” the work of the deputies. This assertion was rejected by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
In the 3 February parliamentary session for voting on the Government Action plan, Al-Jowder said that he regretted the lack of means of evaluation in the plan.
Audit report: On 17 January Al-Jowder called for action to return the “squandered funds” cited in the Financial Audit Bureau’s annual report to the state budget.
During the 14 April parliamentary debate concerning the annual Financial Audit Bureau report, Al-Jowder, said that it was ministers, not “ordinary employees” who should be held accountable. He said that ministers were failing to take urgent action and said that the Finance Minister himself should be held accountable, and he asked how the Minister could claim that there wasn’t “wastage” – “Should we call it theft then?” Al-Jowder asked.
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-Jowder voted in favour of the interrogation.
Public debt: On 27 March six MPs, including Al-Jowder, 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.
On 25 March, Al-Jowder rejected rumours that services to citizens could be halted in the light of the parliamentary decision not to increase the debt ceiling. He noted that the Government Action Plan hadn’t been based on a rise in debt levels.
According to Al-Watan on 14 May Al-Jowder was one of the 9 MPs who said that they would reject increasing the debt ceiling to 7bn BD.
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-Jowder said “we are obliged to seek the welfare of the citizens, we did not come here for money or reward… we support the deputies from the (2011) by-election but there is no need to raise the ceiling above 4,000 BD.
Policing & regional security
Ex-Military restrictions: In the 24 February parliamentary vote preventing former army personnel from taking military jobs overseas, Al-Jowder said that as a former member of the military he had concerns about the extension of the ban from military work overseas from five to ten years, which Al-Jowder said was excessive and could reduce levels of recruitment into the military. Al-Jowder said that the proposals required further discussion, but voted in favour.
Iraq: Al-Jowder on 16 March expressed his outrage at comments by former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki, who had called for Al-Wefaq Secretary-General Ali Salman’s release from prison. Al-Jowder demanded that the Iraqi ambassador be summoned over the issue.
Hezbollah: Al-Jowder condemned Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah’s reaction to the GCC intervention in Yemen. Al-Jowder expressed his “astonishment at Lebanon’s failure to remove Nasrallah’s citizenship, despite his long-standing and desperate support for Iran”. Al-Jowder on 18 April called for Nasrallah to apologize for negative comments about Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Iran: Al-Jowder on 4 April expressed his “optimism” that the deal between Iran and Western powers could result in progress for the region. He said that he hoped that Iran would abide by the principles of “good neighbourliness”.
Saudi mosque attack: Al-Jowder 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, Al-Jowder praised the efforts of security forces in thwarting attempted attacks.
During the 23 June parliamentary session Al-Jowder criticized the Foreign Ministry’s November conference for combatting terrorism funding, saying that the conference achieved nothing and more tangible efforts were needed to “combat terrorism and sabotage in Bahrain”. During the session, the Foreign Ministry responded to questions by Al-Jowder about “interference” by foreign embassies in Bahraini affairs.
Gulf Union: Al-Jowder on 14 June emphasized the importance of the GCC moving towards a union.
Rights, freedoms & religion
Media: Al-Jowder criticized Bahrain TV for “censoring” sensitive debates and viewpoints. He renewed the call for broadcasting parliamentary debates live on the TV. He claimed that the TV news had deliberately not aired his comments on the recent bill pertaining to legal military matters. (7 March)
On International Press Freedom Day, Al-Jowder called on Bahraini journalists to be a “free and defending voice against all the detrimental attacks and undermining of facts which Bahrain has endured”. Al-Jowder called on journalists to “abide by professional ethics”. (1 May)
Al-Jowder on 20 May praised the recent comments by the Prime Minister in support of journalists. Al-Jowder on 21 May called for activating the new draft media law in order to “allow for greater freedoms”.
Women’s rights: Al-Jowder on 12 March blamed “weak legislation” for increasing levels of recorded violence against women. Al-Jowder in a statement expressed his “sorrow at the injustice women today have to endure from those closest to them… it is unacceptable that women can be captive to monstrous men who want them to be weak and submissive”.
Exclusion: On 21 March Al-Jowder praised the directive to exclude the Lebanese poet Jumana Haddad. Al-Jowder said: How could the Spring of Culture organizers allow this apostate author to poison the brains of our youth with her ideologies?”
Monarch: Al-Jowder on 21 May in a statement said that the King had received Arab and international recognition for his efforts, after the King was chosen by the Arab Creators Union as the Best Arab National Personality for 2015.
Youth, culture & sport
Sport: Al-Jowder 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.
Al-Jowder on 16 June proposed the establishment of sports pitches and a club house in Qalali.
Grand Prix: Al-Jowder warned on 11 April against pro-opposition figures trying to interfere with the smooth-running of the Formula One event.
Culture: Al-Jowder on 13 May met Shaikha Mai, the head of the Cultural Authority. They discussed upcoming cultural projects.
Youth: During the 23 June parliamentary session MPs discussed the Govt’s approach for keeping young people occupied during the holiday period. Al-Jowder said that young people “lost themselves in flirting and drugs” because of the lack of organized activities.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Affiliation: Al-Jowder is reportedly part of the new National Bahrain Bloc in the Parliament (14 February). On 18 February Al-Jowder ridiculed his reported affiliations with Al-Asalah, saying that he did not represent any political society and denying that he had been one of the Asalah MPs who had walked out of Parliament on 10 February.
Walkout: On 10 February Al-Jowder was reported to have participated in a walkout after the head of Parliament refused to discuss media allegations of corruption in the Parliament’s Secretariat General. On 14 February Al-Jowder denied that he had walked out of the session, saying that he had departed to remonstrate with the MPs who had and that he returned to the session afterwards.
Al-Jowder called for all sides to calm down and look for civilized ways of addressing the dispute which arose over these allegations, affirming his confidence in Parliament head Ahmed al-Mulla.
Public engagement: On 28 May Ahmed Qaratah, Ali al-Muqla and Mohammed al-Jowder participated in a majils event in Arad to discuss the State Budget.
- Standards of living, health & education – 6
- Housing & services – 6
- Policing & regional security – 6
- Good governance & public finance – 7
- Economy & employment – 6
- Supporting constituents & youth – 6
- Rights & freedoms – 5
- Constructive Parliament role – 6
- Public visibility – 6
- Progressive/reformist credentials – 4
Results of 2014 elections – 5th Muharraq
Areas covered: Northeast Muharraq; Amwaj Islands; Qalali
Housing blocks: 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 263, 264, 265, 266, 269
Registered voters: 7,199; Percentage 1st round voter turnout: 87.6%
First round vote:
Mohammed al-Jowder – 1252 (20.5%); Khalid Bu-Anq – 1245 (20.3%); Mahmoud al-Mahmoud (MP) – 1020 (16.7%); Muhammed al-Dakhil – 653 (10.7%); Mohammed al-Faraj – 583 (9.5%); Abdulaziz al-Majid – 504; Jamal Saad – 402; Sami al-Shaer (NUG) – 309; Ahmed al-Mannai – 90; Ibrahim Ali – 62
Second round vote:
Mohammed al-Jowder – 3358 (61.2%)
Khalid Bu-Anq – 2129 (38.8%)
Profile of election campaign: Mohammed Hassan Rashid al-Jowder
Mohammed al-Jowder has been an interesting candidate, continually coming out in the media with fresh and original policy proposals. He proposed opening the first academy of its kind in Bahrain for the disabled. He said such support would help the disabled play a greater role in society, which in turn would benefit the national economy. Al-Jowder stressed the importance of investing in human capital and achieving social justice.
Al-Jowder promised to set up the first local “majlis” in his district dedicated to hearing the concerns and aspirations of young people, in order that appropriate parts of Bahrain’s administration could be made to hear these concerns. Rival candidate, municipal councilor Khalid Bu-Anq, had been outspoken in raising issues of local concern. He only came seven votes behind Al-Jowder in the first round.
It was a surprise to many that incumbent MP Mahmoud al-Mahmoud was defeated in the first round, as he is a respected figure and political heavyweight. The vote is possibly an indicator of the frustration many voters are currently feeling towards the limited achievements of the previous Parliament.
Lying to the northeast corner of Muharraq, this large constituency has the smallest number of registered voters in the Governorate. Much of this constituency is built on recently reclaimed land, including the trendy Amwaj islands. As a result, the population in these areas is predominantly middle class and cosmopolitan.
However, the southern parts of this constituency include working class areas of Qalali, which observers describe as constituting the “electoral core” of the district. This is particularly the case after the constituency was recently expanded in order to incorporate a greater share of Qalali.
Commentators have described this district as being a stronghold of independent candidates, in comparison with many other Muharraq districts where political societies hold sway.
An Al-Watan survey for 5th Muharraq found widespread frustration amongst younger people in this area over poor housing provision and a perceived lack of action on the issues that matter by previous parliaments. There were also concerns about lack of suitable jobs for young graduates and lack of activities for younger people, while others noted the necessity of doing more for “marginalized” and disadvantaged constituents, like widows, unemployed, the elderly and those with special needs.
Given these frustrations, we can only credit the huge levels of political engagement in this constituency, with a first round voter turnout of nearly 90%.
Know your deputy: Profiles of other Bahrain MPs
Adel al-Asoumi – 1st Capital
Ahmed Qaratah – 2nd Capital
Adel Bin-Hamid Abdulhussain – 3rd Capital
Deputy-Head of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Abdulrahman Bumjaid – 4th Capital
Nasser al-Qaseer – 5th Capital
Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Ali al-Atish – 6th Capital
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
Head of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ibrahim al-Hammadi – 2nd Muharraq
Jamal Buhassan – 3rd Muharraq
Isa al-Kooheji – 4th Muharraq
Head of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Mohammed al-Jowder – 5th Muharraq
Abbas al-Madhi – 6th Muharraq
Ali al-Muqla – 7th Muharraq
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 8th Muharraq
Fatimah al-Asfour – 1st Northern
Deputy Head of the Committee for Women and Children
Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh – 2nd Northern
Deputy Head of Committee for Youth and Sports
Hamad al-Dossary – 3rd Northern
Ghazi Al Rahmah – 4th Northern
Deputy Head of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ali al-Aradi – 5th Northern
Deputy Head of Parliament
Rua al-Haiki – 6th Northern
Shaikh Majid al-Majid – 7th Northern
Head of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Dr. Isa Turki – 8th Northern
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar – 9th Northern
Deputy Head of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Mohammed al-Ammadi – 10th Northern
Head of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Jamal Dawoud – 11th Northern
Head of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Jamila al-Sammak – 12th Northern
Head of the Committee for Women and Children
Khalid al-Shaer – 1st Southern
Head of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Mohammed al-Ahmed – 2nd Southern
Abdulhalim Murad – 3rd Southern
Second Deputy Head of Parliament
Mohammed al-Maarifi – 4th Southern
Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee for Services
Khalifa al-Ghanim – 5th Southern
Anas Buhindi – 6th Southern
Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Abdullah Bin-Huwail – 7th Southern
Head of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Dhiyab al-Noaimi – 8th Southern
Mohsin al-Bakri – 9th Southern
Ahmed al-Mulla – 10th Southern
Head of Parliament