Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Bahraini opposition delegation withdrew from the 21st National Consensus Dialogue on Wednesday in protest against the government’s refusal to listen to its demands.
Representatives of the National Democratic Opposition Societies refused to take part in the second session of Wednesday’s National Dialogue at the Isa Cultural Centre, complaining about a lack of movement on the equal representation issue.
The Bahraini National Dialogue session began with the opposition calling for a resolution of the issue of equal representation; an issue that has been a source of contention at several previous dialogue sessions.
The opposition also called for the drafting of a document summarizing the issues discussed at previous sessions, including what issues have been resolved, as well as the issues that are still under discussion.
The opposition delegation also sought to present a letter on the postponement of the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and a document that contained suggestions to resolve the equal representation issue.
After the discussion of equal representation was tabled for a subsequent session in favor of discussing “principles and values,” the opposition refused to return for the second half of the dialogue.
Ahmad Sanad Al-Benali, head of the National Political Societies, revealed that not all members had attended the first half of the National Dialogue, which discussed a number of issues.
The official minutes of the meeting reveal that the following “principles and values” were agreed on by the participants: the National Action Charter and respect for the constitution; political reform through constitutional means; adherence to the civil state; respect for all religions and sects; protection of citizens’ rights; opposition to violence, hatred and sectarianism; rejection of foreign interference in domestic affairs; rejection of a sectarian [political] quotas; and respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Benali said: “Six members of the political opposition delegation withdrew, while following the break the entire delegation withdrew. They were given five minutes to return to the session, otherwise they would be recorded as absent in the official record.”
He stressed that the opposition was insistent on discussing an issue that had already been resolved in previous dialogue sessions, namely equal representation.
For his part, Jamil Kahtem, spokesman for the opposition Wefaq movement, stressed that the withdrawal was from the 21st National Dialogue session, not the entire National Consensus Dialogue.
He emphasized that this boycott was in protest of the approach taken by the government party and its supporters in the National Dialogue, preventing the opposition from discussing the issues that they want to focus on.
He said, “The opposition has called for a document to be drawn up specifying which issues have been resolved and which issues remain unresolved, so that we can determine which direction the dialogue must go in.”
The Wefaq spokesman said that Wednesday’s dialogue session had turned into a “dialogue of the deaf” after the government delegation and its supporters continued to discuss issues, while the opposition delegation remained silent in protest.
Kahtem added that the opposition delegation had been subject to provocative statements from some parties, which prompted it to take the decision to withdraw from the second half of the dialogue session.
The next Bahraini National Dialogue session is scheduled to take place on June 19.