What the Future Holds for the Reform Process?
Has the democratization process in Bahrain actually stopped,
or has it only slowed down? And have traditional factions succeeded
in not only halting the process but in also overturning it?
Some politicians and human rights activists believe that the
strong surge of reforms, which began in the first years of the reform
period, is now coming to a halt. Others say that traditional factions
which oppose reform have succeeded in slowing down its pace. To
what extent is this opinion true?
Up until now, there are no clear local standards that can be
referred to in order to evaluate the democratization process, although
there are international standards in this regard. Despite the fact
that officials constantly stress that the reform process is still
continuing, and both the public and political forces accept the
idea of gradual reform, it must be admitted that the pace of the
reform process has slowed down significantly throughout the past
Currently there is no time limit for the democratization process,
for this issue is assessed by the higher authorities. Also, there
is no clear agenda with regards to the steps that should be taken
towards achieving a gradual transition. Therefore, ambiguities exist
when analyzing the current situation and determining the outcome
of the reform project.
Some desire a ‘constitutional monarchy’ in accordance with the
Constitution and based on the principle of a peaceful transition
of power. This includes allowing the opposition the opportunity
to rule if it represents the majority. According to Tahir Hikmat
– who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Institute
for Political Development- this does not contradict the fact that
the political system is a monarchy. Between the present situation
and the final target is a long way filled with obstacles and uncertainties
regarding the steps that need to be taken. This is despite the existence
of an official document that is similar to a manifesto, which paints
a picture of Bahrain in 2030.
It is worth mentioning here some of the reasons for the slowing-down
of the political reform process and the modernization of the state’s
apparatus and laws. These are as follows:
- The continuing situation of fear and lack of trust between
the Government and the opposition, for it seems that common grounds
and dialogue between them are still very limited.
- The election of some anti- reform parties into the House of
Representatives which has re-enforced the position of those opposing
the reforms from within the Government.
- The continuation of the incitement of violence and riots for
years which is regarded by some as a direct outcome of promoting
- The pressure exercised by undemocratic regional powers on the
Bahraini experience in order to discourage reforms.
- The opposition’s poor parliamentary performance and their inability
to encourage Government’s organs to accelerate the democratic transition
In his speech on 21 September 2009, the King stressed the continuation
of his political reform project through the promotion of what he
called ‘the foundations and pillars of the civil and constitutional
state’. He also affirmed the importance of respecting human rights
and freedom of expression through the use of legitimate and peaceful
means. In addition to this, he vowed to continue with the existing
reform policies in a gradual manner. State organs should translate
the King’s words into actions in order to add more vitality to the
political arena and restore momentum to the reform project as it
was the case when the reform project first started.
Hasan Moosa Shafaei
President - Bahrain Human