18th July, 2012 –
Following calls by HM the King, more than 300 representatives of different sectors and political segments of the society came together at the national Dialogue held in June 2011. While many saw the dialogue as a success others considered it a failure since Al Wefaq, the main opposition society withdrew from the dialogue. Since then the opposition has refused engaging in any kind of dialogue with the government while continuing its weekly protests.
During the past few months news has been spreading about organizing further dialogue which would bring the government together with the opposition. This idea has been widely perceived within Bahraini society as a waste of time; as many think the government has failed in keeping up to its promises, while others believe that the opposition is responsible for leading the country into turmoil and the government should not have a dialogue with them.
Citizens for Bahrain canvassed a substantial cross-section of Bahrainis about the prospects for dialogue in the coming months and we summarize the reactions below. Please note that despite the many reservations expressed below concerning dialogue; Citizens for Bahrain’s genuine belief is that a dialogue between the Government, the opposition and other major political factions is the only way out of the current challenges facing the Kingdom.
Sign of weakness
“The leadership has left all the doors open for dialogue, the opposition refuses therefore anything that goes wrong in the country is of the opposition’s responsibility,” stated Mariam, aged 36 from Arad.
“We have seen very slow progress by the government following the BICI recommendations and the National Dialogue outcomes and that’s why I think it’s pointless to have another dialogue, I personally have lost hope in the current situation;” said Omar 29 from Riffa.
Many people perceive the leadership’s calls for a dialogue as a sign of weakness. “ The protests are ongoing, the economy is bad, sectarianism is on the rise, the country is going down the drain and that’s why both the opposition and leadership need to go for the dialogue as they have no options left” said Ali 32 from Manama.
“A ridiculous demand”
“The opposition led by Al Wefaq wants the Prime Minister to step down and that is a ridiculous demand when you have half of the population supporting the PM. They should stop putting conditions for a dialogue” said Fatima 35 from Saar.
“Unacceptable to reduce sentences”
Loyalists tend to think that the leadership has compromised a lot for the sake of engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, while people on the other side of the political spectrum fail to acknowledge any step taken by the government. “HM the King has pardoned all those who verbally abused him; doctor sentences have been reduced; Bassiouni’s recommendations are being implemented; what else does the opposition want so that it enters a dialogue? There should be no more condition or compromises,” one respondent replied.
Some loyalists tend to see that the government has failed to implement the rule of law by reducing the sentences of the doctors involved in the unrest. They feel that they are being disregarded while the opposition’s demands are met: “It is unacceptable to reduce sentences or release criminals just to satisfy the opposition, yet I believe that it is about time to bring an end to this chaos and engage in a serious dialogue” said Lulwa 27 from Muharraq.
“Restoring order requires a serious dialogue with the opposition, there’s no other way to restoring peace and stability in the country besides dialogue, no matter what the compromises are, stability is a priority” said Mohammed 34 from Sanad.
“The opposition is in a week position, it has lost its followers and valid causes for protests, it has to engage in a dialogue with the leadership without any conditions” said Hind 26 from Budaiya.
In general most Bahraini loyalists agree to the necessity of engaging in a serious dialogue and bringing an end to the unrest and violence in the villages – although most are skeptical about the prospects of success in the current political climate.
Loyalists feel the necessity to stop the daily attacks on policemen and the disruption of traffic. A dialogue among all components of the society should give greater momentum to solving the main challenges being faced.
Despite the many reservations expressed above concerning dialogue, Citizens for Bahrain sincerely believes that the current economic, social and political situation puts the necessity for a dialogue at the forefront of all areas of interest to the nation.