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Gulf | Bahrain

Bahrain: Independents’ issue looms over national talks

Standoff expected as sides set to review new proposal

  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
  • Published: 12:10 March 31, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manama: An alliance of opposition political societies taking part in a national dialogue in Bahrain said that it would push for dropping the team of parliamentarians from the talks.

Eight independent members are equally representing the two chambers of the bicameral parliament at the dialogue alongside eight delegates from the alliance of the opposition, eight more delegates from Al Fateh coalition and three ministers from the government.

However, the opposition said that the eight parliamentarians, four women and four men, were not independent.

“There are no independents at the table,” Majid Milad, a spokesperson for the coalition of the opposition, said. “We are tabling four options for our meeting on March 31 and we hope that we will agree on one of them,” he said ahead of the meeting of an action group tasked with paving the way for the wider meetings of all participants.

One option is to have eight independent people selected equally by sides taking part in the talks, he said. The third and fourth options would be to reduce the number of independent figures to four or to two, equally chosen by the sides taking part in the dialogue.

“Another option is to simply cancel the participation of independent figures and limit the number of interlocutors to eight from either of the two coalitions and representatives from the ruling family,” he said in a statement carried by his society Al Wefaq.

The call for change is likely to be resisted by the other components, mainly Al Fateh coalition, an umbrella for ten political societies.

“The opposition tends to consider anyone who does not side with them as against them, and that applies to all people regardless of their status,” Ahmad Juma, the spokesperson for Al Fateh coalition said.

The talks were launched on February 10 in a new bid to heal the wounds that had scarred Bahrain since the events that unfolded in the country in February and March 2011 and eventually sharply divided Bahrainis, often along sectarian lines over their merit.

The participants at the national dialogue have so far held nine rounds and divergences were related mainly to proposals by the opposition to have a representation of King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa and to hold a national referendum on the outcome of the talks. The call to have the king represented was rejected by the royal court in a statement that insisted that King Hamad stood equidistant from all participants, a point fully endorsed by the other participants. The idea of a referendum on the outcome is still being discussed.

The tenth round is scheduled on Wednesday.

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