Legislation and Oversight
Members of the Legislative – the Council of Representatives and the Shura Council- in the Kingdom of Bahrain are considered representatives, advocates, and deputies for the people in terms of fulfilling general interests. As soon as they enter parliament, they no longer represent their respective constituencies, but rather, each represents the interests of nation, and is entrusted with achieving the public good, through the various legislative, oversight and financial mandates, in accordance with the constitution, the law, and the Rules that govern the mandate of each Council.
With regard to the legislative, political, and financial roles of parliamentarians, they should not adhere to any regional considerations during their parliamentary mandate, as it would dissect the concept of the public good in a way that might contravene with regional affiliations. Parliamentarians should strive to play their legislative, supervisory and financial roles in total impartiality and integrity, and must dedicate themselves to performing these critical tasks as they represent a portal to progress, development and democracy in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The Legislative Function
The legislative role is manifested in promulgating legislations (laws) necessary for the country, proposing, debating and approving laws. This role is equally shared by both the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives. According to the provisions of the legislation process practice, members of the Council of Representatives have the here under legislative tools:
Proposals to amend the Constitution
Fifteen members of the Council of Representatives – in addition to His Majesty the King and Fifteen members of the Shura Council- are entitled to submit a request to amend the Constitution, as per the following controls:
- The number of authors shall not be less than 15 members.
- The application shall be clear and submitted in writing to the Speaker.
- The application must clearly specify the Constitution articles to be deleted, added, or provisions to be changed.
- A justification statement shall be attached to the request.
- The amendment must be partial; hence does not apply to all articles of the Constitution.
Any member of the Council of Representatives – in addition to the King and the Shura Council members – are entitled to request proposing laws, as per the following controls:
- The number of authors shall not exceed 5.
- The request shall be submitted to the Speaker.
- The application shall be submitted in writing, drafted and specific to the extent possible.
- An explanatory note encompassing the relative articles of the Constitution, and the key principles upon which the proposal is based along with the aims it shall achieve, shall be attached to the application.
- The proposal must not breach any provisions of the Constitution.
Approving or Rejecting Law Decrees
Members of the Council of Representatives and the Shura Council exercise their oversight role over decrees by virtue of attesting the fulfillment of the following conditions:
- An event that requires expediting the adoption of measures that bear no delay. (condition of urgency)
- This urgency occurs during the absence of parliament, whether during a parliamentary recess, in the case of dissolution of parliament, or in between two legislative terms.
- The law decree does not contravene the Constitution.
- The law decree shall be submitted to both the Shura Council and Council of Representatives within a month from issuance date, if the two chambers are in session, or during a month from the first plenary of each chamber in case of dissolution or termination of the legislative term.
Competencies of the Council of Representatives in relation to International Treaties and Agreements
The Constitution requires, for the validity of any agreement, that it is promulgated by a law that is approved by parliament which must be discussed and approved in line with the Rules of the two chambers, exclusively pertinent to the following topics:
- Peace treaties and treaties of alliance;
- Treaties relating to the State territory or natural resources;
- Treaties relating to the rights of sovereignty, the public and private rights of citizens;
- Treaties pertaining to commerce, navigation and residency;
- Treaties which involve the State Treasury in non-budget expenditures
- Treaties entailing amendment of the laws of the Kingdom of Bahrain.Other than the cases stated above, the King is entitled to conclude treaties by virtue of a Decree, and shall communicate the same to both the Council of Representatives and the Shura Council accompanied by the appropriate statement. The two chambers may submit comments on treaties and agreements without making a decision thereof. A treaty shall have the force of law once it is approved, ratified, and published in the Official Gazette.
The Oversight Function
The oversight/political function is represented in the competency to oversee the work of the Executive (Government), and mobilize the political liability, whether individual or combined, on breaches and infringements of its undertakings. The Constitution has granted the members of the Council of Representative the exclusive right to oversee the work of the Government by using the availed constitutional tools
Overall, the Council of Representatives oversight is confined to actions occurring after the convening of the two chambers in their first legislative term. Therefore, they may not discuss the actions or conduct before 14 December 2002.
Each member of the Council of Representatives is entitled to recommend to the Executive a proposal pertaining to aspects and interests that are not within the legislative function, as per the following conditions:
- The proposal shall be submitted in writing to the Speaker of the Council of Representatives;
- The number of authors shall not exceed 5.
- An explanatory note shall be attached to the proposal stating the subject-matter, and considerations of the public interest that justify the same.
- The proposal shall relate to a public issue or general problem.
- The proposal may not contain a breach of the Constitution or the law, nor be detrimental to the higher interests of the state.
- The proposal shall not contain inappropriate or offending phrases relating to individuals or bodies.
- The proposal must be within the competencies of the Council of Representatives.
Each member of the Council of Representatives is entitled to submit a parliamentary question to a minister inquiring about a certain matter of which the member has little knowledge, to verify the occurrence of a certain incident which came to the member’s knowledge, or to request certain information, under the following conditions:
- It must be written as clearly and briefly as possible;
- It must be topic specific;
- It must relate to matters of importance;
- It must related to a matter that falls within the competencies of ministers;
- It must not contain a request for information or statistics that are not included in the question topic ;
- It must not relate to the private interests of an MP nor his fourth degree relatives or agents;
- A question shall not be signed by more than one member, nor shall it be addressed to more than one minister;
- A member shall not submit more than one question per month.
Members of the Council of Representatives may apply for an interpellation as a tool to accuse a minister of default, violation of the provisions of the Constitution or the law, or that he/she has not conducted their mandates in a way to preserve the public interest within the framework of the general policy of the State, which the Council of Representatives has discussed and agreed upon, under the following conditions:
- The request must be submitted in writing to the Speaker of the Council of Representatives.
- It must be submitted by at least 5 members.
- It must state the subject matter of the interpellation.
- An explanatory note must be attached to the request.
- It must state the incidents and key points that the interpellation is based on, and the aspects of violation attributed to the minister, and other justifications.
- It must not include any violations of the constitution or the law.
- It must not include inappropriate expressions or a violation of the dignity of individuals or entities, and it shall not jeopardise the higher interests of the State.
- It must relate to matters that fall within the competencies of the concerned minister.
- It must not relate to actions or businesses conducted prior to the minister’s tenor.
- It must not have a personal interest on part of the interpellator, or any of his relatives to the fourth degree or agents.
- The Interpellation shall not be submitted in relation to a topic which the Council has already decided on during the same session.
- Interpellation shall not be put on the agenda before the ministry presents its action plan.
Withdrawing confidence from a minister
The issue of withdrawing confidence from a minster is considered a constitutional consequence of a parliamentary interpellation, as withdrawing the confidence cannot be put forward without first accusing the minister of default and discussing such an accusation.
The following conditions apply to the request to withdrawing confidence:
- The request shall be submitted in writing to the Speaker.
- The number of authors shall not be less than 10/
- The request shall be submitted after debating an interpellation of the concerned minister.
- The request may be submitted upon the wish of the concerned minister.
Inability to cooperate with the Prime Minister
Neither the constitution nor the Council Rules have approved withdrawing confidence in the Prime Minister. However, a new form of accountability is availed by virtue of submitting a request regarding the inability to cooperate with the Prime Minister, under the following conditions:
- A written and justified application shall be submitted to the Speaker of the Council.
- The number of authors shall not be less than 10.
- The request must be approved by a majority of the Council members.
Inquiry Requests (Parliamentary Inquiry Committees)
The Council of Representatives may at any time form committees of inquiry or delegate one or more of its members to investigate material and moral elements regarding any matter or issue of public interest, under the following controls:
- The request for the formation of an inquiry committee shall be submitted by the Council Bureau or one of its committees, or upon the proposal of at least five of the members of the Council.
- The Speaker of the Council of Representatives nominates the committee members, or the members who shall conduct the inquiry taking into account the expertise and experience in the topic under investigation.
Discussing the Government Action Plan
The constitution availed the Council of Representatives with the right to adopt the Action Plan submitted by the new government appointed by the King or otherwise, during the periods of time stipulated in the Constitution and the Rules of the Council of Representatives. Each member of the Council of Representatives may discuss the Action Plan, in line with the following terms:
- The request shall be submitted in writing to the Speaker of the Council of Representatives.
- The request shall encompass specific topics for discussion.
- The request must be submitted at least two days before the discussion.
The Government Statement
According to the constitution the Prime Minister may, if he deems appropriate, deliver a statement or delegate a minister to do so, before the Council of Representatives, the Shura Council, or one of their respective committees. The statement may be on a topic within his competencies. The members may discuss the government statement in the Council, or refer the same to one of its committees for discussion and expression of views.
Requests for General Discussion
The Constitution granted the Council of Representatives the right to request a general topic for discussion with the purpose of clarifying the same and exchanging of views on the government policy regarding the topic, as per the following parameters:
- The request must be submitted in writing to the Speaker
- It shall clearly specify the topic and the reasons for submitting it for discussion by the Council.
- The topic for discussion shall relate to internal affairs and public interest.
- The request shall state the name of the member selected by the applicants to have a priority of speech in the general discussion.
- The request for a general discussion shall not be listed on the agenda before the government presents its action plan and a decision regarding the same it is made by the Council of Representatives.