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What do Bahrainis expect from Parliament during its final year?

The 2014 Bahraini Parliament resumed on 8 October, for its final year of service prior to the 2018 elections. Here’s a snapshot of views expressed by Bahrainis about what they expect during the last round of this existing Parliament:

“The economy - and only the economy”

“Bahrain is lucky to have one of the most progressive parliamentary systems in the region. But Bahrainis now have to see why this matters. Deputies will get more support from the public when it becomes obvious what deputies do for them… Bahrainis spend a lot of time moaning about their deputies, which is perhaps fair, but it’s also rather unfair because they moan and moan without bothering to find out what is happening;” said Mona, aged 33 from Riffa.

“Every year, life seems to get more and more difficult. Prices are getting higher and wages stay the same, and more young people don’t have jobs – even some of the best graduates. It’s not like ten or 20 years ago. Deputies should deal with one issue and one issue only – the economy and only the economy;” said Ali, aged 23, from Manama.

“This is a really important year for MPs, because unless they can show that they can really make a difference, then people won’t turn out to vote next year. I really want to see our Parliament succeeding, because this is important for democracy in Bahrain – but I worry;” said Samar, aged 41, from Manama.

”More programmes for youth employment”

“We certainly expect more to be done for the benefit of citizens. The current economic situation is challenging, many young Bahrainis are unemployed. We want Parliament to create more programmes for youth employment building on the current ones implemented by the ministry of labour, Tamkeen and others;” said Khalid, aged 34, from Manama.

" The parliament should work on creating more job opportunities. MPs should come up with new employment strategies that are more diversified rather than focused on specific sectors" Mariam 28, Hamad Town

" There has been a great deal of support for entrepreneurship in Bahrain which has resulted in less dependance on both the private and public sector for employment. However, as young people we expect the parliament to propose legislations for establishing a regulatory authority for employment that could work closely with the ministry of labour, the labour fund (Tamkeen) and both the private and public sector in coming up with more employment opportunities for youth" Salman 32, Muharraq

“The Parliament previously worked on financially supporting pensioners, however these schemes need to be updated in line with the current economic situation;” said Manal, aged 30, from Isa Town.

“There are many concerns about freedom of speech and expression in Bahrain. The Parliament should work on legislations that clarify the limitations to freedom of speech and the use of social media. Current laws are not clear and they should be promoted to the younger generation in a language they speak in order to avoid actions prohibited by the law;” said Fatima, aged 30, from Budaiya.

“Paid to do nothing”

“I’m confused what these MPs are aiming to achieve in the coming months. Some MPs were very visible and active to begin with, but then as there has been more criticism of Parliament as the economic situation got worse, we don’t really see them anymore... Parliament is an important part of our society, but we need MPs to be the link between the public and the Government so that our views and concerns are included in policies. I don’t feel that this is happening; said Zainab, aged 38, from Isa Town.

“Although many MPs have worked hard during the past three years, there have been some who are paid to do nothing. Some MPs are hardly seen commenting on issues or putting forward valid proposals. As the Parliament is funded by the Government and MPs are elected by the people they should be held accountable by both the people and the Government if they fail to deliver their duties;” said Abdullah, aged 34, from Muharraq.

“Until MPs work to increase wages for workers in the public sector and teachers in schools, I’m not interested in anything they have to say… Don’t they realize how difficult life is for ordinary Bahrainis?” said Mahmood, aged 27, from Budaiya.

Engaging with youth

“MPs should present proposals for proper strategies to engage with youth in different parts of Bahrain. This is a priority as we need to move forward as a nation. The violence in some areas should be treated and not left alone as this is a major security threat and an issue that damages the social fabric of the country. Parliament should prioritize this area, as terrorism and security are of concern to all;” said Sarah, aged 26, from Manama.

“Supporting the idea of a youth parliament and working on it is what we need. The youth parliament should be seen as an entity that would complement the work of Parliament and not a threat to the work of the existing legislative authority;” said Ahmed, aged 28, from Saar.

“I like the fact that we don’t really have political parties anymore. This means that deputies represent local people and not a political party. This is why the religious political parties did so badly, because they just wanted to do stuff like stopping women from working and making them cover up – they don’t even understand the economy and what politics is all about… But we should make sure that our MPs are really independent and are not serving special interests. They should only serve the public;” said Muneera, aged 29 from Muharraq.

“Do more to empower Bahraini women”

“Bahrain is a country where women are provided equal rights to men and Bahraini women are a source of pride. However this does not mean that we shouldn't do more to empower Bahraini women and amend some of the laws that are outdated;” said Dana, aged 33, from Riffa.

“Lifting the reservations of the CEDAW is the highlight of the parliament’s work in the past three years. This is a great step forward for Bahraini women and it has put us on the global map as a country that respects and promotes the rights of its women in line with international norms;” said Rawan, aged 28, from Muharraq.

“Bahraini women are still not given the right to grant citizenship to their children if they’re married to non-Bahrainis. There should be changes to the current citizenship law and the parliament is the gateway to the solution. I hope that some of our MPs would put this on their agenda for the coming year;” said Noor, aged 32, from Saar.

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