Bahrain's new parliament, consisting almost entirely of supporters of the Sunni Muslim monarchy in the Shiite-majority kingdom, approved the government's political programme Tuesday, the information minister said.
A Shiite-led movement calling for a constitutional monarchy and a popularly chosen cabinet was violently suppressed by the authorities in 2011, prompting the influential Shiite opposition bloc Al-Wefaq to reject extra powers granted to parliament in a 2012 constitutional amendment.
Under that amendment, the government must offer a new programme within 21 days if an initial programme is rejected by parliament. If rejected a second time, the government will be automatically replaced.
Tuesday was the first time parliament was allowed to vote on the programme. And given that the opposition boycotted November parliamentary elections and is not represented, the outcome was inevitable.
Hammadi told AFP 37 out of 40 MPs voted in favour of the programme and three abstained, describing Tuesday’s move as “historic.”
The 2012 constitutional amendments were announced following national dialogue talks which the opposition took part in before boycotting them after the first round ended.
Bahrain, ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and sits across the Gulf from mainly Shiite Iran.
The tiny but strategic Gulf nation has been rocked by unrest since a 2011 Shiite-led uprising demanding a constitutional monarchy and more representative government.
At least 89 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since 2011, while hundreds have been arrested and put on trial, rights groups say.