14-19 October 2016
After a four and a half months’ holiday, the two parliamentary chambers came back together again this week. The main order of business was agreeing chairman positions in the five permanent committees; and in the case of the Shura Council, voting on the first and second deputy chairperson positions.
Throughout the summer there has been media speculation about how the leadership and membership of the five permanent committees in the Council of Representatives would change (see here for Citizens for Bahrain’s 2015 report on the composition of these committees).
In October 2015 all MPs who won places as permanent committee chairpeople were independents; despite the major political blocs emerging at around the same time with a view to influencing the brinkmanship for these positions (see here for Citizens for Bahrain’s 2015 report on the composition of parliamentary blocs).
In contrast with October 2015, when several MPs succeeded in forcing through some quite substantial changes to the membership of certain committees; this time around it was agreed that membership of each committee would remain unchanged. The only objection to this came from MP Khalid al-Shaer.
The three primary political blocs (Accord Bloc, National Bloc and Participation Bloc) had argued that between them they deserved to chair three of these committees, given that they commanded around half the membership of the Parliament. However the chairman and deputy chairman positions are voted by the 7-8 members of each of these committees, so to some extent the voting processes were outside the control of these blocs – unless they secured agreement in advance.
By the day of the vote (18 October), no definitive agreements had been reached and the hours leading up to the vote were distinguished by huddled groups of MPs trying to reach a wider understanding and secure compromises.
As the voting progressed, tensions rose and discussions became heated, particularly as in a couple of cases voting occurred while certain MPs were elsewhere. As a result, some results were leaked via the social media before some MPs with voting rights even realized that a vote had taken place.
In one case, it was announced that Mohammed al-Maarifi from the Accord Bloc had won the vote for chairmanship of the Services Committee. However, a second vote was forced due to absent members, resulting in a victory for independent MP Abbas al-Madhi (who has chaired this same committee since 2012).
Al-Madhi’s win meant that three out of five committees were won by incumbent chairmen (also Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – Finance since Oct 2015; Abdullah Bin-Huwail – Defence since Dec 2014). Furthermore, four out of five of the elected chairpeople were remarkably independents (Bin-Huwail, Al-Madhi, Bu-Ali and Mohammed Milad – Legal).
The only member of a parliamentary bloc who succeeded in gaining a chairman position was Hamad al-Dossary, head of the National Participation Bloc, who came out of the blue to beat the assumed nominee Mohsin al-Bakri from the Accord Bloc.
As claimed by Al-Ayam newspaper the following day, these committee elections would seem to reflect (yet another) defeat for the blocs and a vote of confidence for the continuing strength and relevance of independent candidates in this Parliament
The other non-incumbent winner, lawyer Mohammed Milad is a rather low key Shia MP whose legal expertise has made him a valued member in several committees. Thus, his taking of the Legal Committee chairman role from Ali al-Atish was predicted beforehand.
Jamila al-Sammak (National Participation Bloc) had been touted for a possible chairperson role. The fact that her name wasn’t put forward and that Rua al-Haiki (independent MP, former Chairwoman of the Woman and Children’s Committee) was made the deputy chair of the Services Committee, would suggest that Al-Sammak is the most likely candidate for taking the chairwoman role of the Women’s Committee when the voting of the smaller committees takes place in the coming weeks.
Defence Committee: Chairman Abdullah Bin-Huwail; Deputy Khalifa al-Ghanim; Jamal Buhassan, Dhiyab al-Noaimi, Abdulrahman Bumjaid, Mohammed al-Jowder, Nabil al-Balooshi
Services Committee: Chairman: Abbas al-Madhi; Deputy Rua al-Haiki; Osama al-Khajah, Mohammed al-Maarifi, Jamila al-Sammak, Ali al-Muqla, Isa al-Kooheji
Finance Committee: Chairman Abdulrahman Bu-Ali; Deputy Mohammed al-Ahmed; Ahmed Qaratah, Jamal al-Mahfoudh, Ali Bufarsan, Mohammed al-Ammadi, Adel Bin-Hamid, Majid al-Asfour.
Utilities Committee: Chairman Hamad al-Dossary, Deputy Mohsin al-Bakri; Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Adel al-Asoumi, Abdulhamid al-Najjar, Ghazi Al Rahmah, Nassir al-Qaseer
Legal Committee: Chairman Mohammed Milad; Deputy Khaled al-Shaer; Anas Buhindi, Jamal Dawoud, Fatimah al-Asfour, Ali al-Atish, Isa Turki, Majid al-Majid
Shura Council leadership
The Shura Council (but not the elected Council of Representatives) re-elects its first and second deputy chairpeople every year.
In the event, Jamal Fakhro was re-elected as First Deputy (a position which he has held for 12 years), with 22 votes; beating Dalal al-Zayid with 17 votes. Dalal had acknowledged in advance that it would be very difficult to displace Fakhro, but promised to put herself forward again next year after having brought together her “lobby”.
Incumbent Second Deputy Jamila Salman successfully fought off her rival Sawsan Taqawi, with 27 votes to 7.
Week in politics
Clerics barred from politics: 12 – 18 May 2016
Continued reform efforts: 5 – 11 May 2016
Social media attacks: 20-27 April 2016
Shura Council rejects “Islamicization”: 7-13 April 2016
CEDAW victory: 31 March – 6 April 2016
MPs reject budget statement: 24 – 30 March 2016
Pensions dispute: 17 – 23 March 2016
Committees of inquiry: 10 – 16 March 2016
Protection for Shia families: 3 – 9 March 2016
Political societies in decline: 25 Feb – 2 Mar 2016
Lebanon travel restrictions: 19-24 Feb 2016
Constitution celebrations: 11-18 Feb 2016
Russia State visit: 4-10 Feb 2016
Raising the debt ceiling – again:3 – 9 Dec 2015
Combatting terrorism: 26 Nov – 2 Dec 2015
Clash over debt law: 12 – 18 Nov 2015
Tattoos & sorcery: 5 – 11 Nov 2015
Raising meat payments: 30 Oct – 4 Nov 2015
Anger over subsidies: 22 – 29 Oct 2015
New political alliances: 15 – 21 Oct 2015
A new beginning: 8 – 14 Oct 2015
Links to other Citizens for Bahrain parliamentary publications