The Imperative of reaching out towards Political Trust
Hasan Moosa Shafaei
|Hasan Moosa Shafaei
The lack of trust between political parties and various Bahraini
social segments is very clear and has reached dangerous levels.
It also represents one of the most painful experiences Bahrain has
witnessed in its modern history.
Dissatisfaction and distrust between different political parties,
and more dangerously the claim made by some politicians that they
are unable to cooperate with each other, have become prevalent features
of the Bahraini political scene. This reveals that the situation
in Bahrain has reached a deadlock which could lead to a complete
separation on both political and social levels. Many politicians,
journalists, observers and Dr. Bassiouni himself have discussed
this lack of trust in several interviews, and called for adopting
scientific means to overcome the problem.
In Bahrain there are two intertwined problems: on one hand there
is an increasing gap between the political system and the opposition,
and on the other hand there is similar gap between the political
parties and Bahraini society in general.
The lack of political trust means that there is no social consensus
about general political and social values in the country, such as
political priorities and the means and possibility of co-existence.
In other words, mutual distrust affects basic issues such as the
form of the political system, the structure of political and social
institutions and public aspirations and expectations. This in turn
damages society’s ability to interact with, and build and support
the political system. It also damages relationships between various
social components and the extent of their interaction, integration
and mutual participation to achieve joint objectives and promote
To find a solution we need to assess the reasons behind the lack
of political trust in Bahrain, which has witnessed many serious
problems before the current crisis. Levels of distrust have always
fluctuated according to the political conditions of the country,
but this time the indicator has reached a worryingly high point.
During 1990s, the King was able to rebuild trust through his reforms
and engagement with the citizens and the rule of the law was the
norm. Due to this newly acquired trust and Government promises to
improve conditions in the country, Bahrainis’ hopes and expectations
However, distrust resurfaced due to arguments regarding the Constitution,
which resulted in a low turn-out during the 2002 election. By 2006,
confidence in the political system had gradually improved when the
opposition agreed to participate in the political process, but then
declined again until the eruption of the problem in February 2011,
which resulted in a kind of ‘political divorce’ in Bahrain. It was
at this time that the Opposition left Parliament and some parties
even demanded the complete overthrow of the regime, which badly
affected social relations and the level of trust between them. Now,
the King has once again tried to rebuild trust through the establishment
of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
Political trust is very much connected to the nature of the relationship
between the political system and citizens. It is also directly connected
to the performance of all the Executive, Legislative and Judicial
authorities, and whether these authorities have met the expectations
of the citizens and fulfilled all their promises.
The lack of political trust can lead to the following serious
1-Non-abidance by the law is an indicator of mistrust, because
respecting the law indicates respect for the political system and
confidence in its adequacy and ability to fulfil the demands of
the citizens and address their concerns. It is noticeable that at
the beginning of the second millennium in Bahrain, there were very
few breaches to the law, until a period of tensions and a sharp
increase in rioting began. At this time illegal political parties
were also established, which resumed their activities as if the
law does not apply to them.
2- Non-participation in the political process and low turn outs
for elections, lack of substantial contributions in the voluntary
sector and weaknesses in the performance of civil society organizations
all reflect distrust in the political system. This includes a failure
to appreciate Government reforms and the real achievements of some
Government apparatus, as well as the withdrawal from Parliament
and resignation from a number of State institutions. Withdrawing
from the political process reflects a lack of trust in the ability
of Parliament to meet the expectations of citizens.
3- Political chaos in the form of a conflict between all parties
in the political process which paralyses Parliament’s effectiveness
leading to a weak legislative institution as opposed to the executive
authority. When Parliament fails to represent the aspirations of
voters and MPs become unable to meet the demands and expectations
of their constituents, this will affect the whole political system
and its ability to address the shortcomings of any situation.
4- Resentment towards Government policies and institutions, and
towards civil societies and political parties. Public satisfaction
is a reflection of political trust and hopes for a better future
and also means that citizens’ expectations are being met. Currently,
distrust is rife among loyalists and the Opposition as well against
a number of Government institutions such as in the State media,
printed press, judiciary, civil service, Government ministries,
human rights and other civil societies as well as in unions. All
complain and hold the other party responsible, which has led to
a political deadlock which can only be solved by successfully fulfilling
the demands, needs and aspirations of citizens.
5- Disregard of the ‘Other’ as unworthy of being real partners,
leads to an inability to forgive and accusations of being ‘traitors’
and ‘infidels’. Conversely, mutual trust breeds love and leads to
social visits, intermarriages, cooperation in charity work and coordination
in all walks of life. It will also help people become more accepting
to diversity and sectarian and political differences, and will distance
them from stereotyping and conspiracy theories.
How can we build trust?
The Government should play an important part in the rebuilding
of trust in our society. Religious and political bodies and all
intellectuals in Bahraini society should also participate in the
rebuilding of trust. The following are a number of suggestions in
1/ Promoting respect for State institutions because they serve
all of Bahraini society and not just a particular group. This can
only be achieved by initiating radical changes in the performance
of these institutions and their success in solving the problems
of all citizens.
2/ Consensual political solutions should be reached as well as
cooperation between MPs in order to promote national unity, social
integration and civil peace.
3/ Promoting respect for constitutional institutions and emphasizing
mutual national principles which outline the red lines of political
objectives, as well as adopting a unified political discourse.
4/ Promoting the independence of the Judiciary which is a safe
haven for citizens and a protector of their rights as well as of
5/ Encouraging all public and official initiatives which build
trust between different social groups, as well as building trust
in the political system and promoting its connections with the public.
The BHRM has also encouraged the Opposition to contribute in relieving
tensions and rebuilding trust by participating in implementing the
recommendations of the BICI, which include activating the compensation
fund. Moreover, it is imperative that the Opposition encourages
any initiative that leads to unity or mutual understanding, limits
divisions and expands areas of common interests.
6/ Ceasing attacks on public properties and interests, and adopting
a unified national discourse, especially in the local press, as
well as abandoning unconstructive political arguments.
7/ Maximizing transparency between the leadership and the public
through direct speeches, field visits to different areas, receiving
delegations and attending social occasions. Mutual distrust between
the various political and social parties is caused by the weak connection
and dialogue. Political leaders and head of parties are therefore
required to be more open towards their opponents considering that
living in isolation breeds suspicions, exaggerates fears and reinforces
stereotyping. Social and political openness is thus key to creating
a better atmosphere in the country.
8/ Promoting hope for a free, just and dignified future for all
Bahrainis on equal basis and mutual respect. Bahrainis should not
live in despair and should not be given empty promises.