By SANDEEP SINGH GREWAL, Posted on » Tuesday, December 02, 2014
CONCERNS have been raised over the fulfilment of Bahrain’s National Dialogue, as none of its participants feature in the new parliament.
Al Fateh Youth Coalition (FYC) international relations head Yacoub Al Slaise raised the issue at a seminar held in Al Jazeera Culture Centre earlier this week to discuss post-election politics in Bahrain.
“Those members representing the country’s different political factions who took part in the National Dialogue did not contest the elections or lost,” he said, pointing out that Al Wefaq National Islamic Society and other opposition groups boycotted the polls, while Al Asala Islamic Society and Al Menbar National Islamic Society had just three candidates elected – none of whom were involved in the talks.
“No one bothered to mention this important topic in their election manifestos, so what we have now is a parliament of new faces and none of them was involved in the National Dialogue process.”
The National Dialogue was instigated at the behest of His Majesty King Hamad in the summer of 2011 following the unrest to promote reform and encourage discussion on the governance of Bahrain.
The five, mostly Shi’ite, opposition groups taking part were Al Wefaq, the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), Al Ekha National Society, the Democratic Progressive Tribune and the National Democratic Gathering.
Meanwhile the Coalition of National Political Societies (Al Fateh) headed by the National Unity Assembly, who won no seats in the election, formed the Sunni contingent.
Opposition groups pulled out of the talks in September last year after one of Al Wefaq’s top leaders was arrested and later released.
However, the talks were revived in January after His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, met representatives of different political groups.
In September, the Crown Prince outlined a framework of five key recommendations that came as a result of the National Dialogue.
One of these – the revision of electoral districts – was implemented before the elections, but a further four are yet to be tackled.
These include changing the appointment process for Shura Council members, enacting measures to ensure parliament can question the actions of ministers, new rights of approval for parliament on Cabinet appointments and new codes of conduct for the country’s security forces.
FYC president Rashid Al Jassim said parliament should focus on the issues raised in the talks.
“The recommendations of the National Dialogue and everything related to these talks are not meant to benefit only Al Wefaq but the people of Bahrain,” he said.
“The election result shows that voters kicked out those MPs who did work for them.
“We propose a three-month period for the new parliament members to work on the National Dialogue issues and come out with real solutions.”
The GDN reported in October Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa’s comments that all future talks between opposing sides would take place in parliament and not “out on the streets or in ad-hoc forums”.
He said that parliament represented the views of the majority of Bahrain’s population and was the only way forward for peaceful, constructive negotiations.
However, 36 of the candidates elected to the 40-seat parliament last weekend ran as independents and are not affiliated with the political societies who too k part in the National Dialogue.