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Committees in the 2015-2016 Bahrain Parliament

After marathon negotiations and complex rivalries, the composition and leadership of all the Parliament committees has finally been decided - a month into the new parliamentary year.

In the case of several committees, the competition was relatively benign and there were only minor changes made. However, in the case of the Finance Committee, the Human Rights Committee and the Women and Children Committee, there were hard-fought battles for key roles. In a couple of cases, this led to purges of the existing memberships.

Below we look at the composition of the committees, one by one, including the five main permanent committees, the four smaller committees and also the temporary committees of investigation.

Parliament has five main permanent committees: Finance, Legal, Defence, Services and Public Utilities. These committees are influential in their own right for studying and approving key legislation. 

However chairmanship of these committees also secures MPs a place in the Parliament Administration Bureau, which includes the Parliament Chairman and his two deputies, along with the Parliament Secretary-General, Abdullah al-Dossary. This Bureau controls the passage of legislation through Parliament and the workings of Parliament itself. As a result, there is strong competition for these positions.

At the beginning of October 2015, the Administrative Bureau tried to stipulate that the membership of the five permanent committees would remain the same, although each committee could vote over the chairmanship positions.

There was strong opposition to this from the two new political groupings, the Accord Bloc and the National Bloc. So on 14 October MPs were given the chance to vote on composition of the committees. It was clear from the outset that the main committee which many MPs wanted to see altered was the Finance Committee, which had been led by Isa al-Kooheji.

Al-Kooheji and his deputy Nasser al-Qaseer had been accused by some MPs of not being sufficiently tough on ministers during the long negotiations over the State Budget early in the summer. The Accord and National Blocs had resolved to force through certain changes to this Committee, favouring Abdulrahman Bu-Ali as the new Chairman.

The initial vote gave MPs the opportunity to vote for all those who decided to put forward their candidacy for membership of the Finance Committee. Isa al-Kooheji, Khalid al-Shaer and Nasir al-Qaseer lost their places on the Committee with only 10, 11 and 15 votes respectively.

Jalal al-Mahfoudh won 37 votes, Mohammed al-Ammadi won 36 votes, Abdulrahman Bu-Ali 35 votes, Mohammed al-Ahmed 35 votes, Adel Bin-Hamid 34 votes, Majid al-Asfour 31 votes, Ahmed Qaratah 28 votes and Ali Bufarsan 25 votes. Abdulrahman Bu-Ali was selected as the Chairman of the Finance Committee with Al-Mahfoudh as his deputy.

Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Isa al-Kooheji (Chairman)
  • Nasir al-Qaseer (Deputy
  • Khalid al-Shaer
  • Abdulrahman Bu-Ali
  • Adel Bin-Hamid
  • Jalal al-Mahfoudh
  • Mohammed al-Ammadi
  • Mohammed al-Ahmed

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Abdulrahman Bu-Ali (Chairman)
  • Jalal al-Mahfoudh (Deputy)
  • Mohammed al-Ammadi
  • Mohammed al-Ahmed
  • Adel Bin-Hamid
  • Majid al-Asfour
  • Ahmed Qaratah
  • Ali Bufarsan

Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Affairs

After various negotiations during the summer recess over who would chair this Committee, Al-Majid said that he was stepping down and Ali al-Atish was put forward as the Chairman. Al-Atish reportedly had the support of the National and Accord Blocs, despite himself being non-affiliated. Al-Atish held this role during the previous Parliament from 2012-2013.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Majid al-Majid (Chairman)
  • Anas Buhindi (Deputy)
  • Ali al-Atish
  • Mohammed Milad
  • Fatimah al-Asfour
  • Hamad al-Dossary
  • Isa Turki
  • Khalifa al-Ghanim

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Ali al-Atish (Chairman)
  • Anas Buhindi (Deputy)
  • Mohammed Milad
  • Fatimah al-Asfour
  • Majid al-Majid
  • Isa Turki
  • Jamal Dawoud
  • Khalid al-Shaer

Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence & National Security Affairs

Bin-Huwail was chosen uncontested to continue as the Defence Committee Chairman, with Mohammed al-Jowder replacing Jamal Buhassan as his deputy. Majid al-Asfour asked to leave this Committee to join the Legal Committee and Khalifa al-Ghanim replaced him.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Abdullah Bin-Huwail (Chairman)
  • Jamal Buhassan (Deputy)
  • Abdulrahman Bumjaid
  • Nabil al-Balooshi
  • Mohammed al-Jowder
  • Dhiyab al-Noaimi
  • Majid al-Asfour

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Abdullah Bin-Huwail (Chairman)
  • Mohammed al-Jowder (Deputy)
  • Abdulrahman Bumjaid
  • Nabil al-Balooshi
  • Jamal Buhassan
  • Khalifa al-Ghanim
  • Dhiyab al-Noaimi

 

Permanent Committee for Services

Abbas al-Madhi has chaired this Committee since 2012 during the previous Parliament. Mohammed al-Maarifi remains his deputy for the second year running. So the only change here is Ali Bufarsan leaving this Committee for the Finance Committee and Isa al-Kooheji swapping with him.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Abbas al-Madhi (Chairman)
  • Mohammed al-Maarifi (Deputy)
  • Osama al-Khajah
  • Rua al-Haiki
  • Ali Bufarsan
  • Ali al-Muqla
  • Jamila al-Sammak

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Abbas al-Madhi (Chairman)
  • Mohammed al-Maarifi (Deputy)
  • Osama al-Khajah
  • Rua al-Haiki
  • Isa al-Kooheji
  • Ali al-Muqla
  • Jamila al-Sammak

 

Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment

Adel al-Asoumi was confirmed as Chairman of the Public Utilities Committee, taking over from Jamal Dawoud, with Muhsin al-Bakri deputizing. Nasser al-Qaseer joined the Committee after being voted off the Finance Committee and Mohammed al-Dossary joined from the Legal Committee.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Jamal Dawoud (Chairman)
  • Ghazi Al Rahmah (Deputy)
  • Adel al-Asoumi
  • Ahmed Qaratah
  • Ibrahim al-Hammadi
  • Abdulhamid al-Najjar
  • Muhsin al-Bakri

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Adel al-Asoumi (Chairman)
  • Muhsin al-Bakri (Deputy)
  • Nasser al-Qaseer
  • Ibrahim al-Hammadi
  • Hamad al-Dossary
  • Ghazi Al Rahmah
  • Abdulhamid al-Najjar

 

The smaller permanent committees

The additional committees are a relatively new addition, only having been proposed during the latter half of the previous Parliament. The three committees – Human Rights, Women and Children and Palestine – were joined by a Youth and Sports Committee at the beginning of the 2014 Parliament.

Debate continued into the first half of November 2015 on the membership and leadership of these committees. At one point around 15 people had their names down for membership of the Human Rights Committee and the key political blocs were competing over chairmanship of this committee and the Youth Committee in particular.

Human Rights Committee

After failing to reach agreement on the membership of this committee, the matter came to a vote during the 10 November 2015 parliamentary session. Only two former Committee members succeeded in hanging on to their seats (Mohammed al-Jowder and Mohammed al-Maarifi, with 22 and 23 votes respectively), while former Chairman Al-Shaer and his deputy Adel Bin-Hamid failed to get sufficient votes. New members, Majid al-Asfour, Abdulrahman Bumjaid and Nasir al-Qaseer were voted in, with 25, 22 and 20 votes respectively.

The following week, Nasir al-Qaseer won the vote among committee members, beating Accord Bloc member, Mohammed al-Maarifi. Mohammed al-Jowder became his deputy. 

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Khalid al-Shaer (Chairman)
  • Adel Bin-Hamid (Deputy)
  • Mohammed al-Jowder
  • Hamad al-Dossary
  • Mohammed al-Maarifi

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Nasir al-Qaseer (Chairman)
  • Mohammed al-Jowder (Deputy)
  • Mohammed al-Maarifi
  • Majid al-Asfour
  • Abdulrahman Bumjaid

Women and Children Committee

Initially, membership of this Committee looked straightforward, with Jamal Buhassan, Khalifa al-Ghanim and Mohammed al-Jowder announcing their intention to leave; and Rua al-Haiki, Muhsin al-Bakri and Anas Buhindi joining the Committee.

However, during the mid-November vote among Committee members for the chairperson role, the vote was blocked after three members (Rua al-Haiki, Muhsin al-Bakri and Anas Buhindi) absented themselves. 

Fatimah al-Asfour was reportedly backing incumbent Chairwoman Jamila al-Sammak, while Salafist MPs associated with Asalah, including Anas Buhindi, were lobbying in favour of Rua al-Haiki. This gave Muhsin al-Bakri (Accord Bloc) the deciding vote. Al-Bakri has affiliated himself with the Islamist MPs on a number of issues. When the vote was held a few days later on 18 November, he backed Al-Haiki. 

Jamila al-Sammak (a Shia MP from Hamad al-Dossary’s new bloc) may have alienated the Islamist MPs by taking a tough stance on pro-women issues. She is also outspoken on the issue of female detainees. Al-Haiki (a Shia businesswoman) is at odds with several members of Al-Dossary and Al-Sammak’s political bloc after accusing MPs from this bloc of defaming her. After losing the vote, Al-Sammak submitted her resignation from the Committee, stating that she was busy with other commitments.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Jamila al-Sammak (Chairwoman)
  • Fatimah al-Asfour (Deputy)
  • Jamal Buhassan
  • Mohammed al-Jowder
  • Khalifa al-Ghanim

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Rua al-Haiki (Chairwoman)
  • Fatimah al-Asfour (Deputy)
  • Muhsin al-Bakri
  • Anas Buhindi

Youth and Sports Committee

Ghazi Al Rahmah was elected chairman on 14 November, with Hamad al-Dossary as his deputy. This committee includes three members of Al-Dossary’s political bloc (including Jalal al-Mahfoudh and Al Rahmah), so it was unsurprising that they would dominate the key positions.

Earlier in November, there was reportedly stiff competition between Osama al-Khajah (Accord Bloc) and Ibrahim al-Hammadi (National Bloc). However, they dropped out of the Committee altogether for reasons which haven’t been explained. Ali al-Muqla initially joined the Committee and then quickly dropped out.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Ali Bufarsan (Chairman)
  • Jalal al-Mahfoudh (Deputy)
  • Ghazi Al Rahmah
  • Hamad al-Dossary
  • Osama al-Khajah
  • Ibrahim al-Hammadi

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Ghazi Al Rahmah (Chairman)
  • Hamad al-Dossary (Deputy)
  • Ali Bufarsan
  • Jalal al-Mahfoudh

 

Palestine Committee

The contest for places in the committees left the Palestine Committee with only three members - Mohammed al-Ammadi, Mohammed al-Ahmed and Ahmed Qaratah – reportedly all from the National Bloc. Other former members chose to depart the Committee. Al-Ammadi held onto the chairmanship.

Ali al-Aradi and Abdulhamid al-Najjar were abroad during the vote on committee membership. Both successfully applied to join this committee.

Committee members December 2014 – October 2015

  • Mohammed al-Ammadi (Chairman)
  • Abdulhamid al-Najjar (Deputy)
  • Majid al-Asfour
  • Isa Turki
  • Muhsin al-Bakri

Committee members, from October 2015

  • Mohammed al-Ammadi (Chairman)
  • Ahmed Qaratah
  • Mohammed al-Ahmed
  • Ali al-Aradi 
  • Abdulhamid al-Najjar 

 

Committees of investigation and other temporary committees

There are a number of temporary committees which were established during the course of the 2014-2015 parliamentary year.

The most recent of these are a pair of committees which were established in relation to the subsidies issue. These are the “Joint Committee for Subsidy Reform and Developing Revenues” – which is a joint committee established in July 2015 for coordinating with ministers, officials and Shura Council members. Meanwhile the “Sub-Committee for Reviewing Subsidy Reform” is a smaller group of MPs. 

The Joint Committee was originally chaired by Majid al-Majid, but he resigned at the beginning of November and was replaced by Adel al-Asoumi, who is also – confusingly – the chairman of the Sub-Committee.

 

Joint Committee for Subsidy Reform and Developing Revenues (established July 2015)

Adel al-Asoumi (Chairman from Nov 2015)

Majid al-Majid (Chairman untilN5)

Ahmed Qaratah

Jamal Dawoud

Jamila al-Sammak

Mohammed al-Ahmed

Sub-Committee for Reviewing Subsidy Reform (established July 2015)

Adel al-Asoumi (Chairman)

Muhsin al-Bakri (Deputy)

Ali al-Muqla

Mohammed al-Ammadi

 

Investigative Committee on Unregistered Foreign Workers (established March 2015)

This committee was established in March 2015 for investigating the so-called “free visa” system and the proliferation of foreign workers who were unregistered or who had overstayed their visa.

Membership

Adel al-Asoumi (Chairman)

Muhsin al-Bakri (Deputy)

Majid al-Asfour

Hamad al-Dossary

Ghazi Al Rahmah

Nasser al-Qaseer

Ali al-Muqla

Jalal al-Mahfoudh

Anas Buhindi

Dhiyab al-Noaimi

 

Committee for Investigating Improper Recitation of Quranic verses (established March 2015)

During a March 2015 inter-school talent contest, there was outrage over a video distributed showing a contestant signing verses of the Quran to music – a practice widely considered to be un-Islamic. The Ministry of Education took measures against those involved. However, several parliamentarians successfully called for a further inquiry into the circumstances of the incident. 

Membership

Ali Bufarsan (Chairman)

Jamal Buhassan (Deputy)

Ahmed Qaratah

Khalid al-Shaer

 

Mumtalakat Investigation Committee (established April 2015)

After the 2014 Financial Audit Bureau Report cited repeated examples of financial mismanagement at the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Mumtalakat; MPs petitioned for the establishment of a committee of inquiry into Mumtalakat. The popularity of the initiative is testified to by the high numbers of MPs who decided to join the Committee.

Membership

Ahmed Qaratah (Chairman)

Mohammed al-Ahmed

Abdulrahman Bumjaid

Nasser al-Qaseer

Jalal al-Mahfoudh

Majid al-Asfour

Ali Bufarsan

Ibrahim al-Hammadi

Fatimah al-Asfour

Abdulhamid al-Najjar

Mohammed al-Ammadi

Khalid al-Shaer

Mohammed al-Maarifi

 

Rotten Meat Investigation Committee (established Feb 2015)

Early in 2015, there was a major scandal, after large quantities of meat unfit for consumption was imported into Bahrain. MPs, led by Jamal Buhassan, formed a committee and energetically followed up the issue.

The issue was given fresh momentum in October 2015 when meat subsidies were halted, which raised a number of issues about food importation. Buhassan successfully petitioned for a four month extension to the investigation. 

Membership

Jamal Buhassan (Chairman)

Nasser al-Qaseer

Mohammed Milad 

Ali al-Muqla 

Abdulrahman Bu-Ali

Rua al-Haiki

Majid al-Majid

Jamal Dawoud

Khalifa al-Ghanim

There are two other committees worth mentioning here. Each year a committee is established to respond to the issues raised in the King’s speech to open Parliament. The Committee for responding to the 2014 King’s speech was chaired by Abdulrahman Bu-Ali. The October 2015 Committee, formed after the opening of Parliament, was chaired by Ali al-Muqla. Its membership was a follows: Ali Bufarsan (Deputy) Mohammed al-Maarifi, Rua al-Haiki, Jalal al-Mahfoudh, Ali al-Atish, Osama al-Khajah, Abdulhamid al-Najjar, Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Fatimah al-Asfour, Majid al-Asfour and Mohammed al-Jowder.

The 2014 Parliament was the first Parliament empowered to approve the Government’s 2015-2018 Action Plan. Ali al-Aradi chaired the Committee which met to discuss the plan. The membership fluctuated as increasing numbers of MPs asked to join, but these included: Adel al-Asoumi, Ahmed Qaratah, Adel Bin-Hamid, Isa al-Kooheji, Mohammed al-Jowder, Abbas al-Madhi, Mohammed al-Ahmed, Muhsin al-Bakri, Abdulrahman Bu-Ali, Rua al-Haiki, Majid al-Majid, Jamila al-Sammak, Khalid al-Shaer, Jalal al-Mahfoudh and Mohammed al-Maarifi.

Previous Parliament: Permanent Committees

 

(Following the 2011 by-election)

 

2011-2012 parliamentary year

Ali Dirazi (Bahrain Bloc) Chairman of Finance Committee

Ahmed al-Mulla (Independents Bloc) Chairman of Legal Committee

Hassan al-Dossary (Independents Bloc) Chairman of Public Utilities Committee

Adel al-Asoumi (Independents Bloc) Chairman of Services Committee

Sawsan Taqawi Chairwoman of Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee

 

2012-2013 parliamentary year

Latifah Gaoud (National Independents Bloc) Chairwoman of Finance Committee

Ali al-Atish Chairman of Legal Committee

Hassan al-Dossary (National Independents Bloc) Chairman of Public Utilities Committee

Abbas al-Madhi (Bahrain Bloc) Chairman of Services Committee

Abdulrahman Bumjaid (National Independents Bloc) Chairman of Defence Committee

 

2013-2014 parliamentary year 

Abdulhalim Murad (Asalah) Chairman of Finance Committee

Ahmed al-Mulla (Independents Bloc) Chairman of Legal Committee

Hassan al-Dossary (National Independents Bloc) Chairman of Public Utilities Committee

Abbas al-Madhi (Bahrain Bloc) Chairman of Services Committee

Sawsan Taqawi (National Independents Bloc) Chairwoman of Defence Committee

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