The cabinet has been led since 1971 by the king’s uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the world’s longest-serving unelected prime minister and a man deeply resented by the opposition.
Under the amendments, opposition leaders said, the parliament would still not be able to question or dismiss the prime minister. A consultative council appointed by the king also limits the power of legislators.
”Our people have proven their desire for continuing with reforms,” the king said. ”We complete the march today with those who have an honest patriotic desire for more progress and reform. I must mention here that democracy is not just constitutional and legislative rules; it is a culture and practice and adhering by the law and respecting international human rights principles.”
The king’s speech follows the release of a report by a panel of international jurists in November. The panel, led by M. Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American law professor, recommended sweeping changes that the government has said it will pursue.
The opposition praised parts of the report, but dismissed the government’s response, saying it has not addressed the deeper political imbalance in a country divided between the Sunni monarchy and a Shiite Muslim majority.
Opposition leaders said on Sunday the king’s amendments did not reflect their demands for a full constitutional monarchy.
”His speech fell short of our expectations,” said Sayyid Hadi Hasan al-Mosawi, a former legislator and a member of Wefaq, the largest legal opposition group. ”The measures did not reflect any of the opposition or the people’s demands.
”The speech did not even tackle the core of the problem.”
The New York Times