The National Democratic Opposition Parties (NDOP) have increased internal and joint meetings during the past period, and held a larger number of events including symposiums and meetings with civil society institutions and national personalities concerned with the political issue. The NDOP have also listened to viewpoints of political figures and human rights activists in Bahraini jails, in order to reach a final position of the parliamentary and municipal elections the ruling authority announced to take place on 22nd November, 2014. The NDOP highlight the fact that the authority has taken this decision without consideration to consensus with the NDOP, yet, a new autocratic step added to its continuous persistence to maintain its totalitarian rule and in rejection to power-sharing. The authority has thereof blocked the way in front of all the initiatives presented by the NDOP inside an outside the National Dialogue. And since the region is facing the rise of the Takfiri terror groups, and ahead of all, the so called Islamic State militias who depend on horrifying murders and taking people as hostages then torturing and assassinating them to reach their goal in establishing the IS. These groups do not believe in dialogue and do not recognize states, they have been practicing the ugliest atrocities in the areas under their control in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, it is most necessary for all sides in Bahrain to engage in serious negotiations and dialogue to solve the accumulating crises over decades.
Thereof, the undersigned national opposition parties are honored to explain the following points to the people of Bahrain and to everybody supporting freedom, justice and democracy in the international community, including international NGOs, States and the United Nations:
First: The opposition has been flexible and keen to solve the crisis
When youth groups called for a sit-in the Gulf Council Roundabout -known as the “Pearl Roundabout”- on the 14thof February 2011, the NDOP have presented a number of political initiatives, starting with a request to allow the sit-in to continue in the Roundabout. The opposition then presented its vision in March 2011 to the Crown Prince in response to his invitation to the political and civil groups to present their visions for a solution to the political crisis.
From then on, the NDOP have demonstrated a steady positive position to exit the crisis that started when the regime cracked down on the protest in the Roundabout. The official campaign of repression included extrajudicial killings and went on to include murder under systematic torture, mass arrests, harsh sentences in unfair trials and arbitrary layoffs. Systematic discrimination on political and sectarian grounds and political naturalization have widened since. The stranglehold on the country was tightened with wider housing, unemployment and low-income crises, let alone the wide corruption and looting of public land and funds. National debt has doubled through the past few years amid the Government’s lack of transparency about its financial and administration setbacks.
Second: Initiatives and Declarations made by the opposition
The NDOP have been keen to present positive initiatives to reunite the society and maturate suggestions of political solution while holding on to the people’s demands in the peaceful and civilized movement. These initiatives included:
– On 12th October 2011, the NDOP released the Manama Document in which they declared their position from the crisis, and focused on five points; elected government, elected council with full legislative and monitoring powers, fair electoral constituencies that translate the principle of one voice for each citizen, independent judicial authority and diversified security forces and services. The opposition invited all sides to discuss and amend the Document to be signed after final agreement.
– The NDOP welcomed the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) that was formed by the King. The BICI released its report on 23rd November 2011 and urged for an impartial implementation of all the recommendations in the report far from selectivity, although the report revealed a small proportion of the human rights violations perpetrated by the security apparatuses during the National Safety or state of emergency period.
– On 6th March 2012, the NDOP delivered their visions to the Minister of Royal Court and which focused on the necessity of a political solution explaining viewpoints on unsolved political problems.
– On 7th November 2012, the NDOP launched the Nonviolence Principles Declaration in which they assured to maintain a peaceful struggle to achieve the just popular demands. The Declaration consisted of 6 principles:
1. To respect and defend the fundamental rights of individuals and groups and society powers.
2. To commit to the principles of human rights, democracy and pluralism.
3. To not practice any forms of violence or infringement to human rights and democracy mechanisms.
4. To condemn violence of all forms, sources and sides.
5. To defend citizens’ right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, forming of associations in accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
6. To entrench the culture of nonviolence in our statements, speeches and programs and take on the peaceful approach in our movement.
– On 9th January 2014, the NDOP launched the Project of Tolerance and Anti-Hatred in which they considered incitement to hatred a disease that shatters the unity of society and civil peace, and encourages extremism and sectarian polarization. The declaration also considered that achieving reconciliation, fostering moderation and entrenching pluralism stem from the insistence of the all society parties to find a base for the aspirations of the people and commitment to the homeland that endorses all Bahrainis of all factions and religious, ethnic, ideological and intellectual backgrounds. And the State must commit to its responsibility to work for the interests of all Bahrainis of different backgrounds and to stop all forms of incitement in the media.
Third: The ruling authority has been running away from dialogue and blocked out bilateral meetings
The ruling authority has been running away from all the pledges it made before the world, including the national consensus dialogue and the political part of the February 2013 dialogue. The dialogue tables were structured to suit the regime without consideration to national interest. The ruling authority has shut out bilateral meetings and replaced them with the “document of the notables” in mid-September 2014. This document tailored decrees to amend electoral constituencies and dismissed the re-engagement in dialogue with the opposition, and was then delivered to the King. Despite so, the opposition delivered two statements to the King of Bahrain and his Crown Prince calling for re-engagement in dialogue to reach a consensus for solution. The opposition did not receive any response to the two statements. The opposition has lived up to its national responsibility although the authority has shut out all doors in the face of dialogue and initiatives for solution.
Since the eruption of the popular demands movement, the opposition parties attended bilateral and multilateral meetings with the ruling authority, the political parties and national personalities in the country, and which were fostered with communications.
After the National Safety (state of emergency) was lifted,communications started with the National Dialogue that was launched in July 2011. Some parties participated in this dialogue while others decided to boycott it; nevertheless, it has not resulted in a solution to the crisis. In fact, some outcomes were used to deepen the crisis by further monopolizing decision-making. This went together with the restrictive legislations issued by the National Assembly –through both chambers- to strip the Assembly of the narrow margin of power it had.
The NDOP were keen to genuinely continue in the National Consensus Dialogue in its political part that began on 10th February 2013. The opposition parties delivered a letter to the Minister of Justice requesting to clarify the mechanisms that the dialogue will be based on, however, the Minister said everything can be discussed on the dialogue’s table. This demonstrated a negative approach taken by the ruling authority towards the dialogue by wasting time and making the dialogue unproductive. Nonetheless, the opposition parties presented their issues and agendas in the dialogue, but the structure of the dialogue was built so as to prevent reaching findings that produce solutions for the political crisis. This forced the NDOP to suspend their participation in the dialogue in September 2013, especially amid the increase in human rights violations and arrests, including of the leaders and cadres of the opposition parties. After some time, the authority announced the suspension of the dialogue, this was another indicator of the authority’s failures when it insists on autocracy.
In mid-January 2014, the Crown Prince met with the opposition and emphasized that bilateral dialogue (which the opposition called for in the February 2013 dialogue) is the righteous way to reach agreements and launch a genuine dialogue. The Crown Prince declared Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid Al Khalifa, deputy prime minister, and Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the interior minister, to be representing the official delegation in an official statement released by his Royal Court and published in the local press the next day. But after a few days, the representatives of the official delegation were replaced with the Minister of Royal Court, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who invited the opposition for a single meeting on 4thFebruary 2014. In this meeting, the Royal Court Minister requested the opposition to deliver its vision again. The opposition responded to the Minister’s request and delivered a vision that consisted of two issues: the first was the dialogue’s roadmap and the second was the dialogue’s agenda.
The first issue, related to the roadmap, included 6 points as follows:
1. To continue the meetings between the representatives of the ruling authority and a united delegation representing the NDOP in the coming dialogues.
2. To maintain the agreement with the Crown Prince regarding the need for the bilateral meetings to continue until mature agreements are reached. We strongly agree with the Crown Prince that the method of the previous dialogues were useless and it is necessary for bilateral meetings to continue in order to ease obstacles.
3. To schedule these bilateral meetings in a defined timeline to make the process genuine and fruitful, and to increase these meetings up to at least 3 in a week. Also stressing that the ruling authority must present its vision for a political solution in these meetings.
4. Clarifications and explanations of visions from all sides are necessary to reach understandings, therefore, the presentation of visions concerning the main issues need to be delivered in meetings instead of written communications.
5. To create a suitable environment for political process in Bahrain, this was applied by the King ahead of the National Action Charter. This is most necessary for States undergoing crisis that need radical solutions. Bahrain needs a security and political détente through an end to all political trials, releasing political prisoners starting with jailed children, school and university students, women, elderly, individuals suffering from chronical deformities and disabilities, and by ending sectarian incitement on religious tribunals and the State and quasi-State media, and to create an environment for a genuine political process. These steps will be considered to be building confidence bridges and easing tensions and extremism. These steps will also open the way for jailed political figures who may want to participate and present their visions in the dialogue.
6. To agree on mechanisms and guarantees to implement the agreements of the dialogue to legitimize the outcomes through a national referendum that ratifies the final agreement and moves it to the executing stage, and to put a timeline with real and core guarantees for execution.
As to the second issue regarding the dialogue’s agenda, the opposition has delivered detailed visions illustrated in nine points, as follows:
1- To establish a fair, transparent and agreed upon electoral systemsupervised by an independent national body, and based on equality for all; one vote for each citizen, in accordance to international principles in conducting fair and transparent elections, thereby, differences between electoral constituencies must be limited to international standards.
2- To conduct a detailed study on the options that meet the aspirations of the people of Bahrain by forming an elected government in which each political bloc is represented according to its electoral weight. The government must be subject to the procedures for granting and withdrawal of confidence in accordance with the best practices of democracy in the world. The government must be questioned and responsible before the elected parliament. Also, there must be an agreement on the mechanism of government-decision-making so as to demonstrate the people’s will far from autocracy, especially decisions related to rights and freedoms and core and determining-issues.
3- The elected council of representatives must be the only party to enjoy full legislative and monitoring powers. Legislation mechanisms must guarantee the rights and participation of all Bahrainis without disregarding the right to legislation for the elected party, thereby, making legislations ensure the rights of individuals and groups to contribute to development.
4- The judiciary must be reformed to be fair and impartial far from any political influence from any side, this needs detailed discussions in bilateral meetings.
5- To halt political discrimination practiced against a wide segment of the society, especially by depriving them jobs in State security and military apparatuses.
6- To halt political naturalization of foreigners that threatens the country’s future wealth and establishes for social crises. This problem must be solved through a humanitarian and a social manner.
7- The opposition will continue to denounce violence from any side and emphasize coexistence and pluralism and unity. All Bahrainis must be allowed to exercise freedom of expression in a civilized and peaceful manner in accordance with international standards and covenants.
8- To form a committee to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report according to recommendation no. 1715 by guaranteeing a balanced participation of the opposition. And to implement the recommendations made in the UN’s UPR for Bahrain, and to agree on a national program to achieve transitional justice and inclusive national reconciliation.
9- To combat all forms of corruption and protect the State ownership pf public lands and wealth.
1) On April 7th 2014, the National Democratic Opposition Parties received a letter about the consensus. The opposition responded with a clarification reply that it didn’t agree on the outputs of the National Consensus Dialogue, nor the constitutional amendments made in 2012. The opposition considered those outputs and amendments falling short in producing capable approaches to resolve the political crisis in Bahrain. Those meaningless steps didn’t meet the fair aspirations of the people. Vocally in the local newspapers, the opposition announced its refusal to those outputs before and after the National Consensus Dialogue.
The opposition also emphasized that Bahrain is witnessing a deep crisis and an inclusive solution is a must to achieve justice, equality, integrity of all and to let the people be the source of all powers.
The opposition underlined in its response letter that any side has no right to impose its authoritarian choices on the others as a fait accompli. This becomes worse if it refuses the legitimate demands and doesn’t consider human rights.
The opposition emphasized in its response letter to the Royal Court their full readiness to engage in a serious dialogue, and bilateral meetings based on the approach that have been shared with the Royal Court in February 2014; and includes:
· Stop the security approach to address the crisis
· Initiate confidence-building steps between both sides.
· Develop a clear roadmap with well-defined milestones
· Agree on a time frame with finite number of meetings
· Decide upon an agenda for the dialogue.
2) In April 15th 2014, the National Democratic Opposition Parties sent a letter to H.H. Prince Salman Bin Hamad Alkhalifa. They demonstrated their willingness to meet him but there was no response back.
3) As recent as August 26th, the opposition received a letter from the Royal Court via a mediator under a title of “What could be agreed on about the five points suggested to move the dialogue’s resumption forward”. The Royal Court’s letter included five points.
4) On August 28th, the opposition responded with a letter to the Royal Court welcoming the call to resume the dialogue. It stated that the opposition was looking forward to meeting with the Royal Court as soon as possible as per the bilateral meetings, which have been agreed on. Representatives from all opposition’s parties must attend these scheduled meetings in order to reach final agreements on the five subjects included in the aforementioned paper.
5) On September 14th, the National Democratic Opposition Parties sent a letter to H.M. the king
By demonstrating the letters and communications with H.H. the Crown Prince and the Royal Court, observers can easily conclude how flexible the opposition is and how active it has been in working to find a breakthrough to resolve the worsening political crisis in Bahrain. The opposition parties are highly obliged to achieve the legitimate aspirations of the people through reaching an inclusive solution that will positively affect the life of all Bahrainis. Thereby, the opposition has presented a program, and will develop more ideas to find out a comprehensive compromise that can produce a radical reform where elections must be based on the compromise taken prior.
Any elections process without a peaceful transfer of power within a system of constitutional monarchy, which is the current situation, will be unilaterally run and based on an unfair electoral system. It will fail to meet fair standards of the distribution of voting districts, avoiding the principle of one-citizen-one vote. As it stands many of those who unlawfully gained the Bahraini nationality for political and sectarian reasons would be allowed to vote, along with members of the armed forces under direct order. Thus, the results of these elections are fully controlled by the ruling authority. The opposition parties stress that the current structure of the parliament makes it unable to achieve the people’s demands of freedom and democracy and social justice in a State of citizenship and equality. The opposition will continue to defend the rights of all political prisoners until they are all free from prison, including political and human rights figures. Also, those involved in torture are held accountable according to recommendation 1716 of the BICI report and the recommendations of the HRC. The NDOP have issued single and joint statements calling to boycott the upcoming sham elections. The NDOP will continue their peaceful movement in accordance with international covenants that ensure the rights of freedom of expression.
National Democratic Opposition Parties
Manama – October 10, 2014
Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society (AlWefaq)
National Democratic Action Society (Waad)
National Democratic Gathering Society (AlQawmi)