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Dialogue to bring together 20 participants

Two major alliances, independent activists to hold talks on political issues

Gulf News

Manama: A national dialogue announced last week by Bahrain to help reconcile all parties and end a political deadlock that gripped the nation for almost two years is expected to bring together 20 participants.

Two alliances of political formations will each have six representatives while eight people will represent independent politicians at the talks, sources at some of the societies said.

The opposition, an alliance of six societies, welcomed the national talks, but said that it wanted more details and set its own terms that included an active participation by the government as an interlocutor and not as a coordinator.

The opposition in a letter to the justice minister called for setting a time frame for the start and end of the talks and for adopting the outcome as constitutional formulas and not as recommendations.

However, Samira Rajab, the state minister for information affairs and the official spokesperson for the government, in remarks published by the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat on Tuesday ruled out the constitutional formulas and insisted on the role of the parliament in endorsing the outcome of the dialogue.

“The implementation of the dialogue recommendations will be similar to what happened after the earlier talks,” she said, referring to the July 2011 dialogue. “The implementation will be through the constitutional institutions which cannot in any way be cancelled, ignored or marginalised.”

Another request by the opposition made up of Al Wefaq Islamic Society, the National Action Democratic Society, the Democratic Nationalist Rally Society, the Unionist Democratic National Rally Society, the Progressive Democratic Tribune and the National Brotherhood Society, was to have the talks include an equal number of participants from its own alliance and the government.

However, Ahmad Juma, the head of the political politburo of Al Mithaq, one of the ten societies that came together under the National Alliance, stressed the role of other political societies and said that they raised the issue of representation in a letter to the justice minister.

“There is no equality among the participants since the alliance of six societies will have six representatives, while our alliance of ten societies will also have six representatives,” he said.

A final agreement on how to move ahead with the talks will be announced by their alliance within two days, he said.

“We will also agree on the names of our representatives,” he said. “We have already agreed on the issues and points that should not be raised at the dialogue, such as using the Manama Document as the basis for the dialogue or referring to an elected government which is a violation of the constitution,” he said.

Announcing its views on the dialogue, the opposition societies said that it should be based on a document that they issued last year and that called for electing the government, changing the bicameral parliament into a single chamber and redrawing the electoral constituencies.

Mohieddeen Khan, the secretary general of the National Justice Society, a member of the National Alliance, insisted that 10 representatives be named from the alliance for the talks.

“If the government wants to have an equal number of interlocutors, then it should ask the opposition alliance to name ten representatives as well, and reduce the number of independent participants,” he said. “Naming only six representatives from our alliance is not honouring the rights of all the societies since every one of them has its own views,” he said.

Reports emerging in Manama said that the justice minister would hold a press conference next week to shed more light on the proposed national dialogue.