Bahrain dialogue participants expect tough talks

March 16, 2013

Participants in Bahrain’s national dialogue are bracing themselves for one of the most difficult rounds when they meet for the seventh time on Wednesday.

The magnitude of the challenge became obvious on Sunday evening when an eight-member committee set up to draft the agenda of the talks faced serious difficulties in agreeing on the points to be raised at the expanded meeting of the 27 participants, eight from the coalition of the opposition, eight from Al Fateh coalition, eight independent parliamentarians and three government ministers, in three days.

“The government has not agreed to include the issue of having a representative of the king at the talks in the agenda,” Majeed Milad, a member of the coalition of the opposition, said. “Therefore, we refused to sign the minutes of the session. We see that refusing to include this point deprives our coalition of one of its rights,” he said as he left the hall where the action group met for four hours.

The opposition has been pushing for including a representative of the king at the talks “to accelerate the process and reach agreements that will put an end to the current crisis in the country”.

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However, the government and Al Fateh coalition have consistently rejected having a king’s representative at the table.

“We refuse the principle of having a representative of the ruler at the dialogue,” Ahmad Sanad Al Binali, a member of Al Fateh coalition, said. “To us, the ruler oversees the dialogue and we turn to him to implement our agreements because he is the guarantor. There is no standoff between the people and the ruler,” he said.

Last week, the royal court said that the king stood equidistant from all participants and components at the dialogue.

However, the opposition has made the issue a major demand and its representatives have refused to back down, prompting accusations that they were stalling the possibility of moving forward with the talks.

Al Binali said that the session proceeded smoothly until it was marred by the divergences.

“It had an excellent beginning, but after two hours, it slid into problems when the coalition of the opposition insisted on raising the issue of a king’s representative instead of having delegates for the government. It seems that there is a tendency to stall, prolong or undermine the dialogue and then blame others for the failure,” he said.

Al Binali added that Al Fateh coalition, an umbrella for ten political formations, made compromises.

“We were not ready to have the issue of a referendum on the agenda, but we eventually agreed. The other coalition refuses to make any concession,” he said.

The opposition had called for submitting the results of the dialogue to a popular referendum for endorsement instead of referring them to the parliament.

Milad , a senior member of Al Wefaq society, confirmed that the referendum issue would be on the agenda of the debates on Wednesday.

“We have reached an agreement on two issues and on the implementation of the results of the dialogue,” he said.

Under an agreement reached by the participants last week, the agenda is not binding and is used to facilitate the talks.



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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