Bahrain talks begin on positive note
Manama, February 11, 2013
Talks that could shape Bahrain's future got underway last night on a positive note and participants expressed their keenness to make the National Dailogue a success, a report said.
Political issues discussed during dialogue will be passed through a consensus and not a vote, Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa was quoted as saying by the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.
He was speaking at the first session of the National Consensus Dialogue at Al Areen Palace and Spa.
He said the talks will not have the advantage or disadvantage of numbers when it comes to debating issues, which should be agreed on by all players before being referred to the concerned constitutional authority for further action.
Twenty-seven political figures attended the opening session yesterday including ministers, National Assembly members, representatives of opposition groups, which are a mix of Shi'ite Islamists and secular movements, and members of the National Alliance of Political Societies, a majority Sunni Islamist group.
Shaikh Khalid explained that participants cannot pass or drop a topic from the agenda without unanimity as there won't be any votes.
"All political issues, whatever they are, will be put on the table for debate. But firstly an agreement has to be reached on the mechanism and the schedule. There are different points of view and for that we have decided to continue discussions in our next meeting," said Shaikh Khalid.
"An agreement has been reached that everything must be agreed through consensus and there will be no voting, so fears of advantage and disadvantage doesn't exist anymore.
"We have received papers listing the issues for discussion from the opposition. We will receive another from the alliance, besides other papers that may come in and accordingly we will draw up our future plans for dialogue."
Dialogue spokesperson and media centre head Isa Abdulrahman said the meetings will continue at the resort on Sundays and Wednesdays, from 4pm until 8pm.
According to initial plans, meetings were supposed to be held on Tuesdays as well, but participants agreed it was unnecessary. "Participants have agreed on a condensed schedule over two days rather than three with the next session on Wednesday, focusing more on mechanisms and schedule before real dialogue work begins," said Abdulrahman.
"The atmosphere was positive and reflected keenness from all participants on the success of dialogue and in return the good of the nation.
"Twenty-seven participants have the power to shape Bahrain's future and the way of implementation is still under negotiation, but things are moving on as intended with everyone showing an understanding of others' point of view or opinion. Also, there is flexibility in the names of participants and each group can put forward different names for each session throughout the dialogue."
Abdulrahman added it was too early to reveal details, but positive indicators reflect things were on the right track.
The six opposition groups include Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Al Ekha National Society, National Democratic Action Society (Waad), National Democratic Assembly Society (Al Qawmi), Unity Democratic Gathering Society (Wahdawy) and Democratic Progressive Tribune (Al Taqadumy).
The nine National Alliance of Political Societies include the National Unity Assembly, National Action Charter Society, Al Menbar National Islamic Society, Al Asala Islamic Society, Al Wasat Arab Islamic Society, National Constitutional Assembly, National Dialogue Society, Al Shurra Islamic Society and Al Saf Islamic Society. A 10th member of the coalition, Al Adala, pulled out last week because it wanted 10 representatives at the dialogue and claimed the process was vague. - TradeArabia News Service