Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat—Bahrain announced that an agreement has been reached between the country’s political parties for renewed National Dialogue, which will include discussions of five “core elements,” including electoral districts, legislative authority, cabinet formation, judicial reform and security.
The agreement over the latest round of National Dialogue comes after Bahraini Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa met with political and community leaders this week. The Crown Prince had been tasked by Bahraini King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa to “overcome existing obstacles and accelerate the resumption of dialogue.”
The forthcoming round of National Dialogue has committed to “redefining electoral districts to ensure greater representation and measures to further enhance electoral oversight,” the state-owned Bahrain News Agency reported.
Legislative authority reforms will see a “revised appointment process for members of the Shura Council,” in addition to new measures to “protect the legislative cycle from interruption, and the ability for parliament to question the actions of ministers, including the prime minister and his deputies.”
As for cabinet formation, the next round of National Dialogue will discuss “new rights of approval for parliament on the appointment of the cabinet, including the right to seek amendments of, or reject, the government’s annual plan.”
The government has also committed to additional judicial reform, including “the use of international expertise in order to entrench standards in line with international best practices and strengthen the constitutional independence of the judiciary.”
The final “core element” set to be discussed at the next round of National Dialogue is national security, which is a particular hot-button issue in the Gulf state at the moment amid an inter-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) spat with Qatar.
The National Dialogue will discuss “the importance of national security to all Bahrain’s peoples, rejecting violence and committing to the universal application of the rule of law,” Bahrain News Agency said.
Bahrain’s National Dialogue—originally launched in February 2011— brought together representatives from opposition political parties with the government to voice concerns about the political and social situation in the country. The last round of National Dialogue failed to agree on an agenda in February 2013, with the talks being suspended until now.
GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani paid tribute to the announcement of the next round of national dialogue, hailing King Hamad’s “unrelenting efforts to complete the democratic march and push the reform process towards achieving its goals.”
“The King always proves, through his sincere words and deeds, his farsightedness, wisdom and resolve to lead the national march with utmost dedication . . .for the sake of Bahrain’s interests and loyal people’s aspiration,” he said in comments to the Bahrain News Agency.
Senior Bahraini political leaders also praised the news. Shura Council Chairman Ali Bin Saleh Al Saleh highlighted Manama’s “unremitting endeavors to carry on the democratic march and develop the Kingdom in order to achieve the goals that preserve national interests and meet the aspiration of the Bahraini people.”
The Bahraini King praised his Crown Prince’s efforts to “complete” the National Dialogue, hailing the Bahraini people’s “commitment to national fundamentals and the foundations of the fledgling democratic progress.”
King Hamad also highlighted the importance of the forthcoming elections, saying that these would usher in a “new chapter in national work,” according to the Bahrain News Agency.