Manama: A major religious and political society has pulled out of a coalition of ten formations taking part in a national dialogue to end the political deadlock in Bahrain.
Al Asala society, the exclusive expression of Salafism in the island kingdom, attributed its unexpected decision to differences within Al Fateh coalition, one of the four segments sitting together to work out national reconciliation in the country following deep divergences, often along sectarian lines.
“We have submitted 20 points to be raised at the national dialogue, but none of them has been considered by the other formations in the coalition. The points were all related to national values and represented a security shield for the present and the future. The fact that they have been rejected shrank the role of the society and we decided that working outside the coalition would allow us to have a better performance,” Al Asala said in a statement.
The society, with elected representatives at the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament since 2002, was a major player in the coalition alongside the Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the National Gathering Rally, a society that emerged in February 2011. The other societies do not match them in terms of number of adherents, history or achievements.
The talks, launched on February 10, brought together Al Fateh coalition, the coalition of the opposition, the parliament and the government.
Abdul Halim Murad, the head of the society, said that the decision to pull out was taken over a period of time, but added that the mixed reactions by the coalition societies to a suggestion from the opposition to meet outside the dialogue hall had been a crucial factor.
“We have been categorical about the bilateral meeting suggestion because we cannot possibly sit with people who refuse to condemn street violence,” he said. “There are those who accuse Al Asala of refusing to compromise, and such a charge is not true. In order to hold a meeting, there is a need to agree on the basic issues and on the need to respect the security and stability of the other side.”
Abdul Halim, a lawmaker, said that his society would not boycott or pull out of the national talks.
“Our presence at the table is a guarantee for security. If we are ever told that we had to choose between abandoning the dialogue and rejoining the coalition, we will then study the decision. We will not rush into a decision,” he said.
When the call for the national dialogue rounds was issued in January, it specifically stressed that it will be between eight delegates from Al Fateh coalition, eight delegates from the opposition, eight independent parliamentarians and three government ministers.