I was honoured and privileged to have been invited a couple of days ago to meet HRH the Crown Prince, along with other representatives of Bahraini families, to be updated on the latest developments of the National Dialogue. A breakthrough had been reached, and the CP was keen to share it.
He spoke about the different phases the Dialogue went through since His Majesty mandated him with starting a dialogue with the opposition back in 2011. The following basic points had been agreed upon:
- Electoral districts: A commitment to redefine electoral districts to ensure greater representation and measures to further enhance electoral oversight.
- Legislative authority: A revised appointment process for members of the Shura Council. Measures to protect the legislative cycle from interruption and the ability for parliament to question the actions of ministers, including the Prime Minister and his deputies.
- Cabinet formation: New rights of approval for parliament on the appointment of the Cabinet, including the right to seek amendments of, or reject, the government’s annual plan.
- Judicial reform: A commitment to further judicial reform, including the use of international expertise to entrench standards in line with international best practices and strengthen constitutional independence of the judiciary.
- Security: A recognition of the importance of national security to all people, and a rejection of violence and commitment to the universal application of the rule of law. Security forces to be bound by new codes of conduct preserving the impartiality, probity and integrity of service.
Of course any breakthrough is welcome and a step in the right direction. And as always, I support the CP’s on going efforts to guide out us of the crisis. I have been, since 2011 and before, a great supporter and believer in HRH the Crown Prince.
The “framework of five core elements” is very broad of course, and as I told the CP, the devil is in the detail. Sadly, when I look around me, there is too much cynicism among the Bahraini people. As one friend told me “Suhail, we’ve been here before and nothing’s happened. What makes it different this time?”
Good question. The other thing that I feel is missing is a sense of euphoria. There is no public handshake with the opposition, no talk of a reconciliation plan, no celebrations in the streets and no sense of the crisis having ended. Indeed, the opposition is downplaying the agreement, saying how there was no real dialogue but a series of back-channel communications and some exchanges of letters. But they do not explicitly deny that the five elements have been agreed upon, which is good.
Two key questions come to mind. First, will this last or will it be derailed? Indeed, during the meeting the CP himself acknowledged that every time progress was made someone would jump up and sabotage it. “As if it was planned,” he added.
The second question is what are the details? The details will show the seriousness of the agreement. Many in Bahrain believe that this is just a ruse to legitimise the upcoming parliamentary elections. My view is that we should not pre-judge the situation. Let’s wait and see. I am cautiously optimistic.
HRH also offered the attendees of the meeting to sign a document supporting the agreement and His Majesty’s reform process. He said no one was forced to sign it and left it up to us. In fact he left before even knowing who signed the document. I signed it.
The CP also asked the attendees to participate in the political process by voting in the elections. To be honest, I was undecided, but presuming I find a candidate who does not have a sectarian agenda and who truly reflects my values, I will make a point of voting.
I pray that this will truly be a step forward for our beloved Kingdom.
God bless Bahrain.