Bahrain opposition sets terms for talks

 09 Feb 2014 - 4:53


Bahraini women, one with a placard reading in Arabic “We will not surrender” (C), hold national flags during an anti-government protest in the village of A’ali, south of the capital Manama

DUBAI: Bahrain’s Shia-dominated opposition yesterday unveiled a road map for restarting national dialogue talks suspended last month, and renewed demands for a constitutional monarchy in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
The proposals were published on the eve of the third anniversary of Shia-led protests against the government that erupted on February 14, 2011, and which have left Bahrain politically deadlocked since.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met opposition leaders in mid-January to try to revive the national dialogue days after the government suspended the talks, which had opened a year ago.
The reconciliation talks, which the main Shia opposition had boycotted, are designed to bring the Sunni-ruled country with a Shia majority out of its political crisis.
The Shia opposition, led by the main movement Al Wefaq, urged authorities to free “prisoners of conscience,” as well as “suspend political processes,” and stop “incitation to sectarian hatred”.
In a statement published by Al Wefaq and detailing the road map to restart the dialogue, the opposition said it was ready for “three meetings a week” to speed up reconciliation talks, and that their conclusions should be put to vote in a referendum.
But it also called for the development of a new electoral code for a “fair and transparent (ballot), supervised by an independent electoral commission, as well as delimitation of boundaries that “guarantee equality between citizens”.
Besides a parliament with “full legislative powers” and an “elected government,” the Shia opposition also wants the national dialogue to include talks on reforming the judiciary and to put an end to the policy of naturalising foreigners, which the Shia opposition is strongly opposed to.
The road map also vows to “denounce violence from any quarter,” a way of assuaging the kingdom’s authorities, who have accused the opposition of being behind the intermittent violence that has hit the Gulf state since February 2011.