This time around we hope that our wishes and prayers would be answered and that Bahrain would embark on a promising prospect of reform, change and stability.
Bahrain needs to emerge from its political crisis, firstly by ensuring the success of the national dialogue, and the establishment of a political system where everyone works towards consolidating democracy, and secondly, through reinvigorating the civil society and embracing developments that would reaffirm the basic principles of human rights and their actual respect on the ground.
While a dialogue is taking place between the different political parties, the situation on the streets still remains tense. Violence has not stopped but has in fact increased on the backdrop of news that some diffusion regarding the situation is about to take place.
In order to secure a safe and stable future for Bahrain, we should look for the following:
● A permanent solution to the political crisis. Transitional solutions would bring nothing more than transitional stability. The Bahraini people are tired of the continuous recurrence of the crisis during the last decades. This repetition in itself indicates that the problems themselves have not been radically resolved, perhaps because radical solutions require radical changes in the political structure. There are those around who fear such changes. This was the reason why gradual changes where favoured although they tend to lose momentum over time.
● A consensual sustainable solution. This means what would be agreed upon today between all concerned forces should not be changed tomorrow. It also means that this solution depends on the blessings of the popular majority - otherwise any political agreements would be fragile and short lived. This in turn necessitates that any settlements should be based on justice and be well balanced in such a way that would make them look convincing, easy to defend and more likely to attract public satisfaction.
A Consensual solution as we have ascertained many times before depends on the creation of a political system that depend on three elements or basics:
- Monarchy: there is no way that a political system could be changed through one political party, whether by force or persuasion. The Monarchy is supposed to be the umbrella for both components of the community, the arbitrator and the adjuster of the political balance. This Monarchy could develop in the future to become a constitutional one, in accordance with the Constitution
- Consensual: Where all components of the community would agree on the scope of the changes and determine the regimes policies and direction.
- Democratic: Which conforms with the international human rights principles regarding justice, equality, accountability as well as the respect for diversity, public’s opinion, freedom of expression and choice and the civil and political rights.
● The consensus among the three parties, The Shias, Sunnis and the Royal Family, is the basis for the solution. There is no one party that can abolish the others politically. Bahrain had tried that before, and some think that opportunities are still there to make the current dialogue a success; because all parties have reached the conclusion that neither the use of force, marginalisation, discrimination, nor taking to the streets, violence, tribalism, inflaming sectarianism is enough to tip the balance of power radically in favour of one party at the expense of the other.
All that is not enough, what needs to be done to emerge from the political crisis is:
1. Mutual concessions: although Bahrain has not been stable for the past three years, it has for two years at least been frozen in some sort of a political stalemate. In spite of the presentation of some political schemes, the emergence of many calls for dialogue, and even the actual convening of some dialogue sessions, the eventual outcome had always been failure, and that was due to the fact that none of the parties concerned were prepared to give the necessary concessions that could secure success. Each party was waiting for the other to offer concessions so it could eventually get the Lion’s share of the bargain. Unfortunately things do not work that way in politics. As long as the balance of power is maintained, there is no solution but the political one, which could only be reached via mutual concessions no matter how painful they might be. Indeed, each party can raise the ceiling of its demands as that is one of the negotiating tools. However, when dialogue begins, each party should know exactly what concessions to offer in order to allow the negotiators to reach consensual and agreed upon solutions.
Whoever insists on intransigence and refusal to compromise will bear the full responsibility of allowing the crisis to drag on. We do not believe that either Bahrain or the Bahraini society would want to continue living in such a state of stalemate that allows the energy and resources of both the country and the community to be drained by an acute political strife that would affect all aspects of life, deepen the cracks within society, weaken the status of the state, tarnish its reputation and make it, more than any time before, susceptible to foreign interferences, if not intervention. Who in their right mind would want this to go on?
2. Confidence building: this could only happen when the authority of decision-making is withdrawn from the streets, and handed back to the political elites. In fact the public element has been imposed on the political strife for a long time as a tool to force radical changes in the political structure, protect already existing gains, legalise specific decisions or trends or improve subsequent negotiating conditions.
It is has become apparent that the tense street, which has been utilized in the political strife and was injected with bigotry and sectarian hatred, is now adding an extra burden on the dialogue. Therefore it is now the duty of all parties sitting around the negotiating table to curtail the presence of a street that refuses to accept the necessary concessions needed to allow the process of political reconciliation to succeed. This could be achieved through the immediate cessation of the sectarian rhetoric of hatred, instigation and provocation blowing from media outlets and mosques. We need to start a new rational discourse that understand the concerns of the other, encourages social co-existence and explains its benefits for both the state and society.
We must stress to the other that the necessary concessions required do not mean forfeiting their rights, but that they come within a framework of a balanced process aiming at bringing about benefits for everyone. Since the beginning of Bahrain’s events, all social sectors and their political representatives realised that a new political system was on the way. In fact many political analysts and even some government figures have given some hints in that respect. That in turn raised some fears among followers of different sectarian segments, who began wondering whether the new system would benefit them or serve their needs, and provide security and stability to their families and children?
Both Sunni and Shia sectors have asked themselves the same questions. It was also expressed explicitly in the political rhetoric of both sides. This makes it important that the new discourse should stress that consensual agreement does not mean that one political side has won victory over the other, or that the balance is tipped in favour of one political or sectarian side. It also does not mean that basic citizens’ rights were allowed to slip away.
It is regrettable that some politicians are resorting to using strong language whenever a political solution appears in the horizon, in order to sabotage it and lobby against it and discredit those behind it. By the same token the level of violence in the streets escalates to delay the success of any political dialogue and to keep the strife alive, may be for the purpose of exploiting the situation for future negotiation’s gains.
It is the political and religious leadership’s responsibility, if they are genuinely serious about the success of the national dialogue and reaching a national reconciliation, to act and react with restraint, and to refrain from the public inflammatory and provocative statements that serve no purpose but further increase the tension.
Many political leaders are finding themselves trapped by the same streets they have initially mobilized. They started by inciting the public, then ended up influenced and absorbed by the masses to the extent that they could not control themselves in a way that is conducive to the need of adhering to certain ethics and requirements that should govern national political conduct and practices at this critical juncture in the country’s history.
On the other hand confidence building necessitates that the government should release the detainees especially women and children. Such a step would facilitate dialogue, reduce tensions and put and end to the cycle of actions and reactions.
It is our right to hope for a solution that would take Bahrain out of the bottle neck, restore the social harmony and pave the way towards a prosperous future.