Political Reform in the Gulf

From 8-10 October 2010, the twelfth Development Conference was held in Bahrain. The Conference is a forum for intellectuals and political activists in the Gulf. The participants discussed the

Muneera Fakhro
experiences of national assemblies in four of the Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain UAE and Saudi Arabia. The Bahraini thinker Ali Fakhro called for ‘conciliations between all Islamic political movements and liberal and nationalist ones. This is in order to form a strong bloc before taking any political move’. The General Coordinator of the forum Muneera Fakhro expressed her regret at the failure to involve citizens in decision-making: ‘we in the Gulf, are still run by a small political elite, and the current situation does not constitute the minimum of our aspirations’. She added that ‘our message to decision-makers today is that we are mature enough to practice democracy. We are well qualified and deserve democracy, and nothing but democracy’.

Kuwaiti MP Rola Dashti criticized the large number of ministers’ questionings in the Kuwaiti National Assembly, and that the ministers’ concerns are limited to merely providing services rather than addressing crucial issues, and called for amending the Constitution. On the other hand, Ali Fakhro noted that ‘the presence of the state in the Gulf is very strong and with it comes a very weak society’ claiming that the state has engulfed and weakened society in the region. He also called for adjusting the balance of power between the two, through a reconciliation of state and society, and creating a strong political bloc from all political movements. Shamlaan Al Esa said that ‘no democratic experience can flourish in a closed society’ asserting that the cultural aspect must be taken into consideration, as it is the root of the democracy crisis in the region. Saudi participant Mohammed Sadhaan flagged the absence of democracy in his country as the main obstacle in the face of reforms in the entire region, and if addressed ‘all the Gulf States will enjoy democracy’.