Agenda committee to help put dialogue on track

March 16, 2013

A committee tasked with setting up the agenda of the next national dialogue round in Bahrain will convene on Sunday afternoon amid hopes that it will not run into a deadlock.

Participants at the national talks on Wednesday agreed to form the eight-member committee, two from each of the four components at the table, following divergences on issues related to the dialogue that included its format and outcome and the representation of the king.

The eight participants from the coalition of opposition societies have been pushing for a representative of the king at the dialogue launched on February 10 to help break the political stalemate that gripped the nation for almost two years.

“The justice minister has refused the tabling of the suggestion to have a representative of the king at the talks as a principle, but for us, this is an essential issue for us and we insist on it,” Jameel Kadhem, the spokesperson for the coalition, said. “We will keep on raising it during the next rounds.”

The coalition also stressed that the results of the dialogue should be submitted to a national referendum and not to the parliament.

However, Al Fateh coalition, an umbrella for ten political societies, has rejected both demands.

“We look forward to an agreement on the agenda so that we can have a roadmap for the dialogue,” Ahmad Juma, the spokesperson for the eight-member coalition, said.

“We hope that we can finally move to the discussion of essential issues and topics. We have now moved past the procedures and the format of the dialogue and we should not go back to square one if we do not want to waste time and seek to move forward. We were surprised last week when we came to discuss issues to hear that we still needed to agree on procedures. It was a serious setback and we eventually agreed to set up the committee to draft the agenda in order not to cause the session of the national dialogue to collapse,” he said.

However, Jameel refused claims that his coalition was stalling the talks by focusing on procedures.

“These are baseless accusations because we had agreed to have an agenda based on procedures, principles and topics,” he said. “We cannot move to the topics without agreeing on the procedures. Those who seek to skip procedures are not helping with the dialogue. We cannot accept a specific agenda without any regard for our own agenda,” he said.

The agenda for the seventh round of the talks will be based on the views submitted by the two coalitions and the parliamentarians.

Jameel said that they had prepared their own agenda and that they had received the views of Al Fateh coalition and the eight parliamentarians.

“The suggestions by the legislative branch for the agenda cover procedures and topics, including amendments to existing laws. These can be considered by the parliament when it is elected,” he said.

However, Juma said that he was not optimistic that the committee would be able to draw up an agenda easily.

“Based on my impressions of the past rounds, I cannot say that I am optimistic. I am afraid there will be several twists and standoffs. Regardless of what happens, we will next Wednesday press for starting the dialogue instead of wasting so much time on technicalities. Bahrain needs the dialogue badly and we owe it to our country to engage in it now,” he said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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