Manama: A Bahraini veteran politician has warned that several political societies do not pursue programmes that bridge the gap between Bahrain's Sunnis and Shiites.
"Islamist societies have a hard time getting rid of the sectarian labels that have marked them. Al Wefaq for example cannot say that it does not represent the Shiites, while Al Asala and Al Menbar cannot claim that they are not the representatives of the Sunnis," the Democratic Action Society politburo head, Abdul Rahman Al Nuaimi, said.
But the Leftist leader, who spent more than 30 years in exile before returning to Bahrain in 2001, said that the situation reflected the Bahraini society that was divided along sectarian lines.
"That is why most of the people accept political or religious societies as they are and do not object to their sectarian make-up," Al Nuaimi on Monday told a gathering of supporters of parliamentary elections candidate Dr Muneera Fakhro. He said that liberals, including his society, had a critical role in reversing the tendency and bridging the divide between political societies with strong religious agendas and inclinations.
"We need to strengthen national unity by putting aside religious affiliations and working for the common good of the nation. We have often tried at our society to go beyond the divisions but some formations are fiercely resisting the drive," he said, while supporting Fakhro who, if she wins, would replace Islamist Dr Salah Ali.
Islamists dominated the outgoing Council of Representatives amid popular claims that their focus on religion-related issues had overshadowed more significant social, political and economic matters.
Observers predict that with the participation of Al Wefaq in the November 25 polls and the hesitations by liberals, religion would continue to play a determining role in the next parliament.