x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Bahrain king ratifies constitutional reforms

Bahrain's king ratified constitutional reforms yesterday in hopes that it will help end a year of protests, but the main opposition party said the struggle for democratic reforms will continue.

Bahrain's king ratified constitutional reforms yesterday in hopes that it will help end a year of protests, but the main opposition party denounced them as inadequate and said the struggle for democratic reforms would continue.

"The door of dialogue is open and national accord is the goal of all dialogue," King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said in a ceremony broadcast on state television.

"We hope at this important stage that all national forces and groups ... will join in development and reform."

State television dubbed the amendments "the consensus of a people".

The amendments, which boost powers to question and remove ministers and withdraw confidence in the cabinet, stem from a national dialogue the king organised after widespread protests started last year.

"The amendments have not changed the core of the dispute and have not ended the crisis. They have not met the people's hopes and they have consecrated the constitution of 2002 which gives the authorities the keys of government," said Khalil Marzouq, a senior member of the opposition bloc Wefaq, at a news conference.

"There is no way these amendments can reflect popular will."

Bahrain has been in turmoil since activists launched protests in February last year.

The authorities tried to crush the uprising for reforms with martial law, accusing Shiites, a majority in the country, of co-operating with Iran to change the system of the government.

More than a year later, unrest persists with weekly mass rallies by opposition parties and clashes between youth activists and riot police.

Police fired tear gas in Jidhafs on the edge of Manama on Wednesday.

The current constitution came after a referendum on political reforms when King Hamad came to power in 1999. But the opposition has long accused the government of promulgating a one-sided constitution with powers that lack popular support.

The opposition wants changes that would give the elected parliament full power to legislate and form cabinets.

The final implementation comes after clashes worsened in recent weeks in the run-up to Bahrain's Formula One Grand Prix last month.