Bahrain’s 2018 parliament is considered very different than previous parliament’s in a range of ways, starting with more than 90% change to the faces. Only five former MPs. three from the 2014 and two from the 2006 parliament have won seats in the elections. The thirty-five new MPs have come with a wide range of promises and as a ray of hope to many citizens who believe the 2014 MPs have failed them in so many ways. As Parliament’s first session kicked off last week, below are Bahraini views on the 2018 parliament’s structure and its first session:

“A new phase for Bahrain”

“We are hopeful that they will bring about some change. The 2014 parliament was not up to our expectation although they have worked on a few successful legislations such as the family law and others;” said Khalid, age 28, from Manama.  

“It is a new phase for Bahrain, our priorities have shifted, we want a better standard of living and we want a parliament that finds ways to overcome the current economic challenges. The main focus of many winning MPs was the economy and unemployment, I am hopeful that if not all then some of MPs will stick to their promises and work towards enhancing the economic situation;” said Mariam, age 34, from Isa Town. 

“It’s always good to see fresh faces, however majority of the MPs are inexperienced, with no history of political work and I fear that this will be a weak parliament. The procedural session where MPs fought on voting for parliament speaker and the first session also was not a very good sign as it displayed them as immature and not completely independent in their thoughts;” said Mona, age 32, from Riffa.

“Like watching a class room session”

“There was an MP who came out requesting the parliament speaker for iPads as their work is being delayed. I would say that was a waste of a minute of the parliamentary session and that there are other priorities to discuss. It felt like watching a class room session where they quiet student was looking for any opportunity to raise his hand and be part of the class discussion. Totally unacceptable!” said Abdullah, age 36, from Saar. 

“This parliament is definitely going to be more interesting than the previous one. There are many young enthusiastic MPs who will be difficult to control during the sessions. Parliament speaker is up for a very tough job controlling a parliament filled with youth, a few Islamists, a number of experienced MPs and a couple of opposition members. The 2018 Parliament is interestingly diverse;” said Hamad, age 40, from Manama. 

“The new MPs should understand that if they fail to meet people’s expectations then they will never be voted for again. People have proven that they will not stick to false promises as we’ve seen that most of the 2014 MPs didn’t make it back to parliament;” said Ahmed, age 32, from Riffa. 

“Women MPs can be more visible”

“I hope that our women MPs can be more visible and productive this time. It reflects very nicely to have a female parliament speaker and a total of six women MPs however these women should be active and stand up for women’s rights in parliament. The former women MP who stood against women’s rights thankfully failed in the elections this time;” said Sarah, age 30, from Isa Town. 

“We all have high expectations as we are frustrated with the current economic climate. There will be a lot of pressure on MPs to prove themselves worth of people’s votes. They need to put forward strong legislation to engage with youth and address the issue of unemployment as I believe this is one of the main problems we are facing as a nation;” said Mohammed, age 34, from Budaiya 

“During the first session one of the MPs called on dropping legal cases raised by the 2014 parliament against social media activists for criticizing parliament. This is an excellent start, and the kind of behavior we want to see from a democratically elected parliament. The previous parliament was immature and lacked the ability to stand up for people’s rights;” said Hanan, age 28, from Muharraq.

“Good start for talks and negotiations with the opposition”

“It is the first time we see a presence for the opposition in parliament since the 2011 unrest. This is a very good start for talks and negotiations with the opposition. Dialogue should exist through parliament and Al Minbar Al Taqadumi deserves respect for putting the country’s interest forward and joining the elections rather than boycotting;” said Yousif, age 38, from Saar. 

“Parliament has received the national audit report, the findings of the report are quiet alarming. MPs should address this issue very seriously, question ministers or other government officials responsible for cases raised in the report. This is the parliament’s opportunity to show its strength and that its serious about seeking justice and taking the country forward by holding the government responsible for its actions as expected in any democratic society;” said Fatima, age 33, from Muharraq.

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