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Bahrain's National Dialogue reaches consensus on increasing powers of Parliament
11 : 35 AM - 20/07/2011
Manama, July 20 (BNA) -- Bahrain’s National Dialogue has reached ground breaking consensus to increase the powers of the Parliament. Assembled delegates including: MPs, opposition political societies; NGOs and public figures agreed to enhance the Parliament’s democratic scrutiny over the government.

Commenting on the consensus, the spokesperson the National Dialogue, Isa Abdul Rahman said:
“This decision represents a radical shift in the balance of power - between our democratically elected parliament and our executive branch – further demonstrating Bahrain’s commitment to concrete reforms.”
“Under the new proposals the Prime Minister will now assume responsibility for selecting the members of his government.”
“The government will require the endorsement of our parliament before taking up office. If members of Parliament disapprove they can vote to reject the entire government.
“MPs will have the power to reject the government’s four year work plan.
“This decision guarantees that our government’s composition and work plan will reflect the will of the people.”

The National Dialogue is entering a critical phase as participants discuss the relationship between the executive and the legislative. On they 8th night of talks, delegates focused on reforming the way in which the government is appointed and increasing the powers of scrutiny in parliament. They made headway on improving the legal environment for journalists and achieved consensus on fighting corruption and improving transparency in the public sector.

Rights Theme
Dialogue participants agreed on a number of points related to: media legislation, in particular the development of a code of ethics for journalists ; legislation for broadcast and online media ; and called for a faster ratification of the law governing print media. They also agreed to bolster the rights of journalists by ensuring access to information from official authorities, making it illegal to dismiss journalists for their opinions and shutting down a newspaper without a court order. They decided to establish a supreme council for journalism bringing together journalists, media professionals and civil society organisations. Participants also agreed that undermining religions and sects should be illegal, and called for a a revision of the law on assembly in line with international standards.

Economic Theme
Delegates in the National Dialogue’s economic working group took action to fight corruption by calling on the National Audit Court to take legal action against those who abuse public funds. They also discussed whether the National Audit Court should be part of the parliament. Participants asked for the comprehensive implementation of all recommendations published by the parliament’s investigation committee relating to state property and reclaimed land (landfill). They called for an independent authority to oversee and implement management policies and financial transparency (governance) in ministries and institutions in line with international standards. They agreed that companies with a government share of 30% and more be committed to the same management policy and transparency procedures. In the same spirit, they agreed that board members of government related organisations and companies should be limited to 2 terms and 1 board membership at any one time.

Social Theme
Delegates agreed to develop a national programme to promote a culture of “citizenship and civility” in the country’s education and media strategies in partnership with civil society. They called for better implementation of legislation on security and peace in the wake of the February and March events. Participants agreed to strengthen to role of governorates (administrative districts) in promoting social cohesion, and increasing the role of security forces in humanitarian efforts. They discussed the role of families and of religious discourse in supporting efforts towards peace and reconciliation. They recommended looking at international best practices in finding solutions to overcome sectarian divides and support the healing process after the recent crisis.
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