30‏/03‏/2011

Bahrain's experience in reform and democracy




Bahrain has entered a new phase of its history in March 6, 1999, when he received His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa rule, the successor to the late father, who ruled the country for more than three decades. Has taken shape orientation Sheikh Hamad in the second year of his reign when he referred in his speeches and his statements to the need to reform the economy, and the emphasis on non-discrimination between citizens, and its intention to provide jobs, housing and standard of living for themselves, and this was accompanied by steps to breakthrough security was the release of hundreds of political prisoners and allow the return of dozens of political exiles and to provide margin for the expression of fields through public seminars and the press. 

The fact that the country was living a political crisis and economic and social life since the suspension and the suspension of parliamentary work effectively and legally in many articles of the Constitution of 1973. This has worsened the crisis since the end of 1994, when the united opposition under the banner of the broad popular afford their demands, was mobbed by around tens of thousands of citizens from different directions, The authorities responded to the crackdown escalated into bloody clashes where she lived the country over the period 1994-1999 AD, under the tyranny of the strong reflected negatively on all of life, especially the State's relations with citizens. If they have contributed to the steps 

Breakthrough in creating an atmosphere that allows the dialogue between the Authority on the one hand, the opposition and social forces on the other hand. 

Has responded to opposition positively with these steps, so I stopped all the mass protests and commended the steps governance positive, and expressed its readiness to deal with it positively was the idea of ​​a Charter of National Action in the time as a king of the Committee of 46 personal, of ministers and officials and public figures. Although the majority of officials and loyal, and despite the withdrawal of those who belonged to opposition from the Commission after a few sessions, but the opposition group contributed positively to correct the draft Charter through the drafting and publication of the draft alternative, and by criticism of the draft in public seminars and press the banned opposition. 

In order to develop this document the legitimacy of public, has put King referendum on the Charter of the adult men and women, and here the opposition insisted on the evacuation of power to some of the ambiguities contained in the document, especially with regard to non-prejudice to the Constitution of 1973 and the legislative power, so it is clear that the elected council is the only on legislation and oversight and that the Council is appointed on the consultation was only government actually baptized person of His Majesty the King and the Crown Prince and Minister of Justice and the Chairman of the committee drafting the charter to give such assurances. Thus, thereafter, requested the opposition supporters to vote on the Charter, which provided the approval of sweeping him a percentage of 98.4% of the voters. 

It could be argued that the National Action Charter is a document of reform which is approved by the Governor and the people, and hopes many people commented on the implementation. Thus, when a committee was formed, activation of the Charter under the chairmanship of Crown Prince enthusiast for reform, good citizens rejoiced, especially in light of the use of national competencies for this task. 

But the reform project began to falter actually the issuance of a new constitution by Emiri decree in February 14, 2002 (February) Contrary to what has been agreed upon in the Charter of the lack of prejudice to the Constitution of 1973, and modify the molecule only. 
It could be argued that, since then, the reform project is limping, and there are sharp divisions between the forces of the community about the project itself after it has been to reach consensus through a referendum on the Charter, and little by little it became clear that the proposed reform part and that the target out of the crisis, rather than building a new experience, requiring a radical overhaul at the hands of the forces that in their interest to fix this and that again raises what are the priorities for real reform in Bahrain and what are its mechanisms? 

First: the need for constitutional reform 
Constitution is a legal document that reflects the main concept of governance and the source of its legitimacy, and the relationship between people and the state, and the relationships among three branches of government and its terms of reference, so any authoritarian constitution can not contribute to the reform. 
From here, the 2002 constitution is a setback for the reform process and the hopes of reformers active, the Constitution this is a serious setback for what came in the 1973 Constitution of the rights of citizens, especially the principle that people are the source of all powers, so reduced to the House of Representatives Maslub powers, and the dominance of the executive authority of the state and other authorities and intervention in the legislature, and almost absolute powers of the king and political rights reduced significantly and stunted political parties, associations are subject to the Ministry of Labour. 

But since the first day of the issuance of the 2002 Constitution has begun dilemma constitutional, and began opposition movement, has culminated in the Constitutional Convention in the 14 to 15 February 2004, two years after its release, a conference, which had emerged by the Committee on the follow-up of forces and opposition figures represent half of the electorate at least In our view, out of the impasse of constitutional are either refer to the 1973 Constitution, and modify the direction of progressive through the mechanisms provided for by any of the National Council, or the formation of a committee elected constituent to formulate a new constitution, but does not seem that the provision in question it. 

Second: The legal reform 
Except cancel the state security law, and the State Security Court, and minor amendments to the Press and Publications Law and the Law of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, all laws inherited from the era of repression is still in effect, being used when necessary, but more serious is the issuance of an arsenal of laws in the period between the issuance of Constitution February 14, 2002, and the convening of the House of Representatives and the Shura (National Assembly) in December 12, 2002, and the mechanism of regulating all aspects of life, political, human rights and press and association, and place severe restrictions on public freedoms, and minimized the rights of citizens by the Constitution and the law of constituencies invent hellish formula for differentiation in the electoral rights of citizens, and to ensure government control over any elected representative council, and dwarf the role of the Chamber of Deputies and the making of the executive branch dominate the legislature. The Law 56/2002 has given immunity to torturers, and thus missed the rights of victims, creating another obstacle to reform, and the most serious is that Article 27 of the Constitution states that these laws are valid and not subject to appeal. 

If there is a need to cancel a number of laws and modify each other, and the version number of them in accordance with the constitution of a new contract, and through the parliament represents the people and what actually contributes to the overall reform process and be configured with a penalty. 

Third: the reform of state institutions 
That the key to reform is the reform of the state and its institutions, because the state we were dominating the society and not the product it has gained a powerful nation and the power of making it cripple the forces of reform or fired if they wish, in the light of constitutional and legal reform MUST reflect the state and its this fix for converting from text into reality, that the major joints of the process of reform of the State, a long and complex process, are as follows: 

1 - reform of the executive branch 
 Since independence in August 14, 1971, dominated the executive branch of the State, which in turn dominated the community, has reduced the powers of the executive branch of government, or rather in the Prime Minister and ministries of sovereignty in the highly centralized and authoritarian, so do not doubt it will continue the Prime Minister and the pillars of the ministry in power since independence now or 34 years. Of course, this indicates that the government has become a birthright to some, and their children after them, like as this government and reform on the opposite sides. The first step in forming a new government believes in reform actually winning the confidence of the House of Representatives and over 34 years of centralization, and control the sources of decision and money Odhaloua home to the public for the expansion of special interests (business), monopoly and looting of state land., Is said here that the oil cover defects Without him it would put more miserable than we are. 

There are priorities in the reform of the State organs and is the reform of the Ministry of Interior and the National Security and the Ministry of Justice urgently because they are concerned to ensure the rights of citizens or violation, of course, the reform of the rest of the ministries and state bodies and state-owned companies and has the majority of the shares that it requires to build on basic principles in the forefront of non-discrimination and efficiency and transparency and accountability. 

2 - reform of the judiciary 
Despite some limited cosmetic steps in the judiciary, the judicial system as it stands needs to be profound reform, has unveiled the first Arab Judicial Forum held in Bahrain in the period 15-17/9/2003 the depth of the imbalance in the judicial organs, including Bahrain, Arab, and this requires first put an end to the control of the Ministry of Justice it, and appoint qualified and impartial national, and develop a plan to train judges, and amend laws and the same applies to the prosecution service. 

3 - reform of the developed 
Within the framework of the reform project under the Constitution and declared the formation of new devices has been the most important of the Constitutional Court and Office of Financial Supervision, which is something positive. But the two carrying the same old ills of government agencies, in terms of their independence and lack of validity and type of characters in them, what is required of new devices to be a model for the various organs of the State list, and contribute to the reform of the status quo. 

Fourth: the reform of political life 
Can we have a good constitution and structures of its good on paper, and can we have political parties and newspapers are multiple and this exists in a number of Arab countries, but it can be to perpetuate the tyranny and corruption, backwardness, stagnation, if the lesson is not to meet what we have said are necessary conditions, but also that there will be political will for reform in governance. This does not absolve the responsibility of pro-reform forces of struggle and make sacrifices, the reform will not come willingly, but the rulers impose obligatory. At the forefront of Terms reform politics, raise the tutelage of state intervention in the political work, which means that the state is neutral in the conflict by peaceful political, do not put restrictions on peaceful political action in the framework of the Constitution and the law agreed, and harness its potential to perpetuate the authority of the party or the category of government or to put the party or group over others. 

Have atrophied civil society institutions, and community is becoming increasingly helpless and powerless, and required the revival of civil society, political parties, unions, associations, bodies, and enable them to operate freely, to leave government to the public, and competing parties in a peaceful manner for the leaves to the ballot box to decide who is the winner and the loser, and stems Parliament represents the map of political forces, and the Government is formed from the forces of the majority on the basis of the program and try it clear in the subsequent election cycle, and this requires amending the constitution to be elected government, to be a majority government. 

The second element to disrupt the political and social life are sectarian carved out of society for decades after independence, which sponsored the State of sectarianism and devoted to become the norm exists, and even after opening the latter, it has formed most of the political associations and civil on the base sectarianism can not reduction of sectarian but prohibiting sectarian discrimination in the state and society and make it a crime punishable by law, and the development of control systems for monitoring and received a complaint about them. 

The third element of the corruption of political life is the power of money, and therefore the oldest democracies place restrictions on the use of money in the financing of political parties and civil society institutions, and electoral campaigns, and if the interests of the business class protected always, the danger lies in their attitude to influence the political life through their support for the associations certain political candidates and concerned also decided to Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently. 

Fifth: re-consideration of the social forces and enable 
Result of the years of tyranny marginalization of broader categories of people, ie workers and earners and the middle class and women, so the players ribavirin are the state and employers in the duplication of a tyrant with the statesman's work, and vice versa, that this requires the strengthening of institutions representing different social forces in contrast to the Chamber of Commerce The industry should strengthen the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, professional associations, specialized, and therefore must be the social partners (the state, businessmen and representatives of workers) on an equal footing in the report of the economic and social policies 

Conclusion 
Difficult to put all the reform priorities, we are the excess of despair than where we do not know where to start. But the experience of Latin American countries are developing countries and underdeveloped like us, which successfully made the transition from dictatorship and misery to democracy and well-being, such as Argentina may help us, there are examples of close to us in Africa such as Senegal and Asia are the Philippines Flantoada and learn from others. 

  
Dangerous slope can be overcome by listening, equity and reconciliation  

Slide the country into turmoil and wide the impact on the process of reviving the memory of the martyrs the evening of 17 December with a pomegranate in the capital Manama, and the subsequent demonstrations and protests scattered on the street Badie through parental and Jidhafs and Sanabis and fell the martyr Ali Jassim Mohammed Makki (31 years) of the residents of Jidhafs

What happened was not a surprise since it along the last few months the policy of closed doors by the Authority against any attempt to open a dialogue on burning issues and insoluble, and the policy of fist of iron in the face of protests, arbitrary arrests and actions of deterrence, and came to prevent the march in memory of the martyrs pm Monday, December 17 , and turned into violent clashes which led to a heated situation to explode pm Thursday, December 20 and turned the feast to the beginning of chapters to the tragic looney_world quickly into the abyss unless you rectify the matter. 

Will not address all outstanding issues years ago and entered deep tunnel is not a resolution, but we will address the problem and only one could Hhaltha and processed in a different way than we're used to it. Truth, justice and reconciliation 

For the first time in line eleven of political association and human rights to form an alliance in order to demonstrate the truth of what had been violations of the rights of citizens groups and individuals since independence in 1971 until the abolition of the law of the State Security in February 20, 2001. Over the months have been preparing for the workshop and the General Conference which was held in June 26, 2007 on the occasion of World Day Against Torture. 

 In an atmosphere of uncertainty about the position of the Conference were contacted at the Royal Court. Was then called the Department Bahraini Association for Human Rights by the Department of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch, for a meeting with His Majesty the King. 

At this meeting showed the Bahraini Association for Human Rights, a coordinator of the Alliance for Truth and Justice and Reconciliation, very clearly that the issue of truth and fairness national issue and an urgent need will not be without a true national reconciliation. But all that came out by the meeting is to approve the holding of the conference and that the government will be an official delegation. 

Instead of the conference will be the beginning of a serious dialogue between the government and civil society representatives, particularly representatives of the victims, has made the Minister of Social Development Fatima Al Balushi to confirm the government's position that the State has issued a general amnesty and enough is enough and had taken action against the victims what they must. The surprise is that the Vice Chairman of the Board of Deputies d. Salah Ali was more militants from the government to deny the right of victims to a remedy. And after delivering their speeches officials withdrew from the conference without the cost the government any of their representatives even to listen to the deliberations of the Conference. 

Since then, until the eruption of the recent demonstrations, thousands of victims did not see a glimmer of hope did not encourage them to listen to what the government is concerned about them. Therefore, the frustration and anger is deepening in the hearts of those victims and their families, especially that living conditions and economic development of hundreds of them very bad. 

In return, came the initiative of the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Khalifa Al dorsal to submit a proposal desire to prompt the Government to compensate the victims of violence during the nineties to open up the wounds, was previously Vice ancestral Jassim Al Saidi said that as an association to defend the victims of violence received under the auspices of official support, and drive it in a hurry to antagonize the association Bahraini human rights during the debate on the report of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Committee against Torture in Geneva in the summer of 2005. 

The face of the proposal of the President of the Council strongly condemned in the House of Representatives by a block harmony On the streets, prompting the other blocs to herewith. Could have been instead of that agreement between the blocks together to present a draft law to reveal the truth and justice for the victims, but attempting to block consensus in this regard have not received the response from the other blocks, especially when we know the positions prior to the two blocs Moalitin. 
Returning to right 
Is returning home from exile, one of the various groups affected by the stage of state security. In parallel with a move to the Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture, has led to the returnees move hundreds of returnees in order to redress the peaceful quiet and keen to communicate with officials in the government and the House of Representatives and the Shura Council has moved file returns between the various state institutions, the Royal Court, Office of the President of the Council of Ministers, the ministries concerned such as housing, employment and social development. Formed a ministerial committees, and held lengthy meetings, and has written a memoir but a decision of the Council of Ministers on January 12, 2005 confirms the determination to solve their problem. 
The House voted unanimously earlier in the last session to adopt the demands of his returning and carrying a delegation headed by Deputy Speaker Abdul Hadi is subject to the Royal Court. 
And finally settled the file in the Ministry of Social Development, which commissioned the Royal Court, providing assistance to returnees and not radically solve the problem or remedy as they deserve. 
Yes, I have given aid to the people, but that does not solve their fundamental problems in employment, housing and social security. From here it Returnees behaved despair, frustration, and joined the other victims and their cause has become a single issue. 
What next? 
December 3 (k 1) 2007 all the newspapers published a formal interview under the guidance of HH the Prime Minister to the newspaper «politics» Kuwaiti Bmitha known to the struggles of the people of Bahrain since the seventies. In this modern Prime Minister emphasized the government's health policy during the phase of the security of the State of dialogue and understanding of the negative signals about the struggles of the people. This has raised the official position of widespread protests by the forces and national figures. 
In the Assembly of «promise», held late Wednesday, December 12, 2007 symposium of the opposition forces revealed by the crystal clear its position rejecting any negative attitudes and warned of the danger, In the evening of Friday, December 14, 2007 National Conference was held at the invitation of the National Coalition for Truth, justice and reconciliation in the jacket, and was attended by approximately two thousand citizens, where they were to insist on clear expression of national effort to walk to uncover the truth about what happened to this nation since independence, and the right to redress for victims. 
These signals of lack of clear government did not call any attention to any of the officials not to debate with political leaders and the leaders of the coalition and went preparations for the celebration of national, as if nothing had happened, as if the country is not in crisis. 
If there is a wide gap separating the government from the majority of the people, their actions, the Authority has finally dug another trench is separated from the vast majority of citizens. 
Maybe Itrb some officials to listen to the songs and poems that will benefit from some kinds of people, but they refuse to listen to the pain of this people, and this led to sliding dangerous because of the use of excessive force to quell protests subsidiary and thus transformed areas such as parents, Sanabis and Jidhafs to the battlefield and rained tear gas and rubber bullets and explosive; to fall a martyr and a new beginning a new cycle of violence that was and still can be avoided if the officials are satisfied the need to listen to constructive views that do not cost the state nothing compared to what we see from the opulence of what does not deserve. A dangerous slippery slope that we hope everyone passed through the absorption of the lessons, and by listening, equity and reconciliation. 
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