Opposition must reject violence, insists Bahrain |
Gulf Times - 10 August, 2012
Bahraini opposition parties should denounce violence to demonstrate their desire for political progress, a government minister said yesterday after rare meetings with opponents linked to more than a year of street protests.
Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa has met several opposition leaders recently, according to state news agency BNA.
Among the groups represented was the leftist party Waad, whose leader is among 13 men held for leading last year’s uprising by demonstrators demanding more democracy.
“They must take clear and definitive positions, without giving any political cover to criminal acts,” BNA said, citing Sheikh Khaled, a ruling family member, who called the meeting.
“A clear position would reflect an honest desire for readying the ground for constructive political action.”
The justice minister also urged political groups to play a role in “calming the air to realise common understandings on political action”.
Bahrain has been in turmoil since protests erupted in February 2011 after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
Although the authorities have prevented further mass protests in the capital, unrest has continued as majority Shia Muslims often clash with police in Shia districts.
The royal court minister, seen as a powerful player within the Sunni monarchy, held talks with Wefaq, the main Shia party, earlier this year on ending the conflict, but Wefaq says contacts ended in March.
Opposition groups draw support mainly from among Shias demanding reforms to lessen al-Khalifa domination of political life and end what they say is Shia political and economic marginalisation. The government denies the charges.
Each side blames the other for the months of violence.
Waad said it had discussed its demands for political reform with the justice minister, but expressed concern that the government had started the dialogue with a view to gaining a sympathetic hearing at a UN human rights council session on Bahrain in Geneva in September.
“He said ‘we are serious for a dialogue and we need your opinion on how to start one’,” said Radhi al-Musawi, the Waad deputy leader who attended the meeting.
“We said we need an elected government that reflects popular will and an elected parliament with full legislative power.”
Musawi said Waad also raised the issue of treatment of detainees, media freedoms and rehiring of Bahrainis sacked for their role in last year’s protests.
BNA did not mention Wefaq, the largest party which has dominated the vote in past parliamentary elections, but Wefaq said it had met the justice minister on Wednesday.
“The meeting had nothing to deal with the dialogue nor with resolving the political crisis in Bahrain, as explicitly declared by the minister in the meeting, nor he was mandated to do so as he clarified,” it said, suggesting the government organised the meetings as “public relations exercises”.
Controversial electoral law sent to Kuwait court
The government yesterday decided to refer a controversial electoral law to Kuwait’s constitutional court despite threats by the opposition it would stage street rallies in protest, AFP reports.
“The council of ministers has asked the legal department to prepare the necessary suit to refer the electoral law to the constitutional court,” Information Minister Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah al-Sabah told a press conference.
The decision was taken after “all constitutional experts asked by the government said the law is in breach of the constitution”.
The “referral of the law to the court will take place before the end of next week,” said the minister, adding that the aim was to “immune the law against possible future challenges that may nullify any elections.”
The government took the decision despite stern warnings by opposition MPs that they will stage rallies against the action which they described as a “coup against the constitution.”
The law, which divides the Gulf state into five electoral districts, was passed by parliament in 2006 following popular rallies demanding to reform the election process.
Parliamentary elections were held on the basis of the law in 2008 and 2009, in addition to February 2012 which the constitutional court nullified in June on the grounds of procedural flaws. The court also scrapped the opposition-dominated parliament and reinstated the previous pro-government house elected in 2009 after it was dissolved in December following youth-led protests.
But the revived assembly failed to meet on two attempts last week due to a lack of quorum as opposition MPs said it was illegitimate and pro-government lawmakers boycotted it because the government planned to dissolve it.