Manama: A much-anticipated national dialogue was lunched on Sunday afternoon amid expectations that it would help heal a deep political wound that has afflicted Bahrain for months.
The dialogue was called for by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa in January and invitations had been sent to representatives from societies across the political spectrum and independent parliamentarians.
Three ministers are also attending the talks. The political societies have set up two coalitions, one by six opposition formations and the other by nine groups. Each of the coalitions is represented by eight representatives.
The eight parliamentarians are from the two chambers of the bicameral parliament and present the most balanced group with four women and four men.
The opposition where Muneera Fakhro is the only woman representative, decided at the last minute to attend and said that its decision to continue with the dialogue would depend on the reactions to a nine-point list of demands.
“We decided to come at around 1 pm after a series of consultations between the societies forming our coalition,” Fakhro told Gulf News. “It was not an easy decision and our participation will largely depend on how the other participants react to them,” she said as the liberal figure was making her way to the dialogue hall in the opulent Al Areen hotel in the south of the country.
The societies were supposed to give the names of their representatives last week, alongside those of the other societies and the parliamentarians.
“We are here now and we will see how things move before we make our final decision on the dialogue,” Abdullah Janahi, another representative from the opposition coalition, said.
Representatives from the National Coalition said that they were optimistic about the outcome of the talks.
“We are here to help our country overcome challenges” Abdullah Bughammar said. “We have prepared our list of the points to be addressed to the other side and to the government as a way out of the political crisis,” he said.
Abdul Rahman Al Baker, also from the National Coalition, said that he was optimistic about the results of the talks.
“The issues to be debated will decide the length of the dialogue,” he said.
The spokesperson for the dialogue, Eisa Abdul Rahman, told the media at a brief press conference that the representatives at the outset of their meeting praised the call for the talks.
According to the schedule, the dialogue sessions will be held three times a week in the afternoon.
The opposition coalition includes Abdullah Janahi, Hafez Hafez, Muneera Fakhro, Jamil Kadhem, Abdulnabi Salman, Hassan Al Aali, Mousa Al Ansari and Hamid Al Mulla
The National Coalition is made up of Abdullah Bughammar, Ahmad Juma, Abdul Rahman Al Baker, Ahmad Sanad Bin Ali, Khalid Al Qattan, Abdul Rahman Abdul Salam, Adnan Al Bader and Abdullah Al Huwaihi
The ministers are Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali, Minister of Justice, Essam Khalaf, Minister of Works, and Majed Al Nuaimi, Minister of Education