On June 3 I wrote here about some good news from Bahrain. The king had lifted the state of emergency and called for dialogue, the main opposition group Al Wefaq had accepted the request, and the foreign minister (and soon after, the crown prince) had visited Washington to talk about compromise and negotiation.
And yet. Today’s news does make one wonder if this is all window dressing. The crown prince had been expected to lead this dialogue. Today the government announced that it would instead be led by Speaker of Parliament Khalifa al Dhahrani, who unlike the crown prince is regarded as a hard-liner. Perhaps even more significantly, he is not a member of the royal family and has little decision-making power. Whether Al Wefaq can enter into negotiations with him is uncertain, and the group will surely wonder why the crown prince has backed—or been pushed—out.
Watching events in Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia, the king should come to grips with reality: things cannot go back to the way they were in Bahrain last year. The sooner he enters a serious negotiation over constitutional reform with Al Wefaq and others, the sooner Bahrain can address and perhaps solve its problems.
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