16th Mar, 2013 –

Citizens for Bahrain analyzes Bahraini views on the appointment of the Crown Prince as First Deputy Prime Minister

The King’s decision to appoint Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa as first Deputy Prime Minister was surprising for most Bahrainis; at a time when the opposition and leadership are holding serious talks in the second round of National Dialogue. Here are some of the views expressed to Citizens for Bahrain:

“This has caused confusion”

“It was certainly an unexpected decision by the King. It is clear that the leadership is paving the way for the Crown Prince to have more power within the Government; especially since he is viewed as a progressive reformist by both the opposition and moderates in Bahrain. Those loyalists who are against his appointment need to understand that he is the future King and we need to work with him for a better Bahrain,” said Sara, aged 30, from Riffa

“This raises concerns as to where we are heading. I don’t have a clear vision of Bahrain in the coming five years but this has caused confusion towards how the Government will function from now on. Some people started seeing that the Government and the state were one entity, although they are supposed to work together with different centres of power; as the Government is the executive authority;” said Maryam, aged 28, from Saar

 “A moderate figure with respect for different views”

“Prince Salman is the prime example of a modern young Bahraini. What’s better than having someone like him in such a post. Most of the faces within the cabinet have been the same for decades, hence bringing in someone young and progressive can have great outcomes,” said Ali 32 from Manama

“It is a major step towards promoting reform in Bahrain. It is clear that the Crown Prince has always had a good relationship with moderate opposition figures. He is still seen with Shia Ministers who have resigned following the unrest and that is a great indication that the CP is a moderate figure with respect for different views and will not disregard others just because they disagree with him or other members of the leadership,” said Salah, 29 from Muharraq

“The leadership will only show good-will when it starts compromising. The Crown Prince’s appointment is not a positive sign since he belongs to the same family and he is the Crown Prince and future King at the end of the day. We will only believe change when we see it. Besides that there will be no way of convincing the protesters that this is a positive step,” said Zainab, 32 from Isa Town

“Appointing the Crown Prince as Deputy PM will not change the current situation, I don’t see it as a move that promotes democracy. People should have an elected government or at least not a figure from the ruling family in such a post,” said Ahmed 28 from Saar

“People have to understand that compromises need to be made”

“It might have been one of the demands of the opposition during the dialogue. For what it’s worth, the general public doesn’t have much knowledge of what’s going on behind closed doors in the dialogue. If so, then it is a good step by the King. People have to understand that compromises need to be made by the leadership in order to be able to lead this country into political and social stability” said Khalid 36 from Sanad

“The Crown Prince officially outranks the four other Deputy PMs and will definitely have a say in the decisions taken by the cabinet. Let’s not forget that he has been appointed to enhance the Government’s performance and this shows that the government has failed in many areas and that Bahrain needs the Crown Prince to overlook the implementation of government policies, we definitely can’t have an Al-Wefaq member in such a post, as that will be totally unacceptable to loyalists and will cause further divisions,” said Abdullah 36 from Riffa.

“He has the right vision for Bahrain”

“I think this man tried to avoid the sectarian divide when he first called upon a dialogue and was then disregarded by the opposition, he has proven that he’s a moderate when he called on loyalists to stop the boycott and was disregarded by loyalist extremists. He has the right vision for Bahrain and is certainly the only figure who brought a little hope during the time of crisis, we do wish that he succeeds in his additional post and eventually paves the way for further democratic decisions within the government,” said Mohammed 40 from Isa Town.

“Prince Salman will face a great challenge; many people have highly criticized his decisions during the past two years. He needs to make the right moves and put issues that concern Bahraini youth as one of his priorities since they are the ones involved in street violence, brainwashed by their religious scholars whether Sunnis or Shias, and they are the ones who started the sectarian war on social media that has damaged the social fabric and economy of the country,” said Fatima 38 from Manama.

“Just a publicity stunt”

“The Crown Prince’s role within the government will be limited, let’s not have high expectations and think that he has been appointed to bring an end to the unjust decisions and policies of government organizations. He may be able to introduce certain changes but not the kind of change expected by thousands of Bahrainis who took to the streets in Feb 2011,” said Hussein 26 from Sanad.

“Prince Salman’s appointment is just a publicity stunt by the leadership to show that the one figure who can be accepted by the opposition is in the government working closely with the Prime Minister,” said Marwa 34 from Budaiya.

As you can see, there are a great diversity of views regarding the Crown Prince’s appointment; ranging from hardline Sunnis concerned that the Crown Prince’s appointment means major concessions to the opposition; to those greatly relieved to see this respected moderate take a leading executive role; to those who sympathize with the opposition and believe that appointing a member of the Royal Family to such a role – no matter how greatly they respect him as a progressive figure – indicates that nothing can change.

Unfortunately, after the opposition demanding that the Crown Prince take a more central executive role as a route out the crisis; we are hearing too many oppositionists weakly welcoming his appointment, but being quick to down-play the role that the Crown Prince will be allowed to play. We say give him a chance and work with him, not against him by fully committing to the path of Dialogue.

What is certainly the case is that this appointment has got people talking, and has created additional momentum to the stuttering dialogue process, as well as being a clear gesture of good will from Bahrain’s leadership. We hope that the Crown Prince fulfills these expectations and that his new role will see him playing a decisive part in enacting reform and putting the unrest behind us.

Crown Prince’s role in National Dialogue and the Economy

To help contextualize the interest the Crown Prince’s appointment has aroused; below is a summary of some of the important recent work the Crown Prince has been involved in for Bahrain:

Role in Dialogue

The Crown Prince initiated the idea of a National Consensus Dialogue in February 2011. He officially called for bringing an end to violence and requested the opposition leaders to join a unified dialogue for the future of Bahrain.

However, the Crown Prince’s calls for dialogue were completely ignored by the opposition, which chose to continue their unauthorized gathering at the Pearl Roundabout, in addition to daily rallies and protests that caused chaos and tensions in the country during February and March 2011.

Throughout 2011 and 2012 the Crown Prince repeatedly supported the idea of a dialogue and gave his blessing to any initiative that promotes reconciliation in Bahrain. He is seen as the most moderate figure within the leadership, and has maintained a good relationship with many influential figures within the Shia community.

In December 2012, after months of political stalemate, the Crown Prince called for the sides to return to National Dialogue. He stressed that “only through face-to-face contact will any real progress be made”. This call was welcomed by opposition party Al-Wefaq, which is currently participating in the dialogue with the other opposition societies. Due to his reconciliatory efforts and moderate approaches Prince Salman is viewed as a ray of hope by moderates and liberals in Bahrain.

Role in economy

The Crown Prince chairs the Bahrain Economic Development Board, which includes Government ministers as well as industry executives on its board of directors, with an aim of enabling public and private sectors to work closely together.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is a dynamic public agency with an overall responsibility for formulating and overseeing the economic development strategy of Bahrain, and for creating the right climate to attract direct investment into the Kingdom.

Economic Vision 2030

Being chaired by the Crown Prince the EDB initiated ‘Vision 2030’ which is a comprehensive economic vision for Bahrain providing a clear direction for the continued development of our economy and at its heart is a shared goal of building a better life for every Bahraini.

Vision 2030 has been developed over the course of four years in consultation with over 1000 Bahrainis from the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society. The Vision is supported by a national economic strategy detailing strategic initiatives across a range of sectors, which together will deliver the long-term aspirations outlined within the Vision.

Support for Economic Development ‘Tamkeen& LMRA’

The Crown Prince is also the primary supporter for establishing the Labour Market Regulatory Authority ‘LMRA’ which works towards regulating, monitoring and preserving the rights of labourers within the market which mainly consists of expats. The Crown Prince also backed the Labour Fund ‘Tamkeen’ that aims at enhancing the skills of Bahrainis and supporting them in becoming entrepreneurs and professionals through providing financial support for acquiring professional degrees, micro credit loans for small and medium enterprises in addition to training Bahrainis in different business fields.

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