Bahrain’s king announced constitutional amendments on Sunday giving parliament more powers in overseeing governments selected by the ruling monarchy.
In a televised address, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said the new powers will include approving Cabinets proposed by the ruling dynasty and greater authority to question and remove Cabinet officials.
“Our people have proven their desire for continuing with reforms... We complete the march today with those who have an honest patriotic desire for more progress and reform,” the king said.
“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,” he added.
“I beseech all sectors of society to work together so that all their sons adhere to the law, which is linked to coexistence and tolerance...”
But the opposition said the new constitutional powers fell far short of demands for democracy that have driven a year of unrest in the Gulf Arab state.
The Gulf island nation, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, is seen by the United States and Saudi Arabia as a key ally against non-Arab Shi’ite power Iran just across Gulf waters.
The amendments, which increase powers to question ministers and withdraw confidence in the cabinet, emerged from a national dialogue King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa organized last year after the Sunni-dominated government quelled demonstrations dominated by majority Shi’ites.
The main opposition party Wefaq withdrew from the dialogue, saying it did not go far enough to offer real reform.
Activists were scathing about the speech, which comes after a number of deaths in recent weeks resulting from the tense security situation.
Meanwhile, tensions are set to rise ahead of Feb. 14, the anniversary of the uprising last year after Egyptians and Tunisians succeeded in forcing out unpopular leaders.