Last updated: 12 October, 2011

Bahrain opposition demands elected govt

Bahraini opposition groups called in a new declaration on Wednesday for an elected government and for ending discrimination against the Shiite majority in order to break the political stalemate.

In “The Manama Paper”, a document described as Bahrain’s “path to freedom and democracy,” the five groups, including the largest Shiite formation Al-Wefaq, called for restructuring the political system while “preserving the monarchy.”

“The reality is that Bahrain resembles any non-democratic country; it is a copy of (ousted) Zine El Abidine (bin Ali’s) Tunisia, (deposed Hosni) Mubarak’s Egypt, or (embattled President) Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Yemen,” said the document, presented at a press conference.

Nearly seven months after a deadly crackdown on a month-long pro-democracy protest, the groups repeated their demand for “an elected government” in the tiny island nation that is ruled by the Al-Khalifa Sunni dynasty.

King Hamad’s uncle, Prince Khalifa bin Salman, who is widely despised among the Shiites, has been prime minister for 40 years.

The list of demands also includes “a fair electoral system,” redrawing constituencies to guarantee better representation and “a legislative authority with a single chamber that would have exclusive legislative, regulatory, financial and political authorities.”

In addition to the elected chamber, the current parliament also has the all-appointed Shura Council, which can override legislation from the lower chamber.

A chief complaint of the opposition is the naturalisation of foreigners “on political grounds,” suspected as being an attempt to change the demographic balance in favour of the Sunnis.

The document demanded an end to this policy as well as reversing “all kinds of tribal, sectarian and political discrimination.”

It also called for a international guarantees for a “genuine dialogue” after the opposition pulled out in July of a high-profile national dialogue called for by King Hamad to discuss reforms in the kingdom.

“We call upon the international community to support the reformists within the government and the removal of the extremists from the political scene through political means,” the statement added.

Authorities say 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in a month of unrest. The opposition puts the death toll at 31.