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Bahrain's hesitant steps toward democracy

Tehran Times Opinion Column, Nov. 27, By Hassan Hanizadeh

TEHRAN, Nov. 26 (Mehr News Agency) - Initial results of the first round of the recent parliamentary election in Bahrain indicate that 17 opposition candidates have come out on top.

In what was only Bahrain's second parliamentary election in its history, the 295,000 citizens of the country's 700,000 inhabitants were eligible to vote for 40 members of parliament from among 206 candidates.

Although tiny Bahrain has often experienced clashes between the majority and minority, thanks to some amendments to the constitution, it is now moving toward real democracy.

This Persian Gulf littoral state was formerly governed through a traditional tribal system, with the 20 percent minority governing the 80 percent majority by using the tools of power.

However, after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa took power, Bahrain's entire governmental structure was altered and the tribal system was replaced with a parliamentary system.

Many members of opposition groups who had fled the country during the rule of the previous government seized the opportunity and returned to Bahrain to participate in political activities.

The major changes made in the governmental structure on the orders of the king elevated Bahrain's status in the region and the international arena.

Bahrain was once internationally isolated due to intense internal clashes between the minority and majority but is now gradually beginning to play an active role in settling regional crises.

King Hamad also took another important step when he initiated a national dialogue in order to resolve the country's longstanding disputes. This move strengthened national unity.

Although there are still some doubts about the final results, it seems that the government has not rigged the first round of the parliamentary election.

However, if the final results of the election are altered in favor of a specific group, as Bahraini opposition groups have predicted, the country will face great political challenges in the future.

These challenges will eventually threaten national security and opposition forces will feel compelled to take measures against the government, with repercussions which will affect both sides.

Bahrain has a unique social arrangement different than the other littoral states of the Persian Gulf which requires a complete restructuring to facilitate the participation of all political groups in determining their destiny.

A free democratic election definitely provides the opportunity for the participation of all political groups in their country's affairs, and this opportunity should not be transformed into a threat by vote-rigging.

... Payvand News - 11/27/06 ... --

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