Thursday, May 28, 2009

al-Wefaq and Kafala

As noted previously, Bahrain is moving to scrap the sponsorship system, by which guest workers' status in the country is made dependent on the company that hires them. The business community is now working through parliament to weaken the proposed change:
"In a protest rally staged on Wednesday evening in front of the society's buildings in Manama, several businessmen accused Al Wefaq of 'failing to assume its responsibilities towards a critical sector that fully supports the national economy and the drive to give Bahrainis better employment opportunities'...

"On Tuesday, the lower house of the bicameral parliament said that it wanted to include a clause that would make it mandatory for foreigners to remain at least for one year with their employers before they could move on to another job. Al Wefaq, with 17 of the 40 seats in the lower house, however, voted against the proposal which was passed with a slight majority.

"Businessmen, upset by al Wefaq's attitude, said that it 'will now have to bear all the negative consequences of its attitude towards the national economy and its drive to put the business community under siege.'"

Does this have implications for the position of parliament vis a vis the royal family? Constitutional movements in other Gulf states, and for that matter other times and places, have emerged from the business sector. However, this is just one set of issues, and it's not clear that deeper political shifts are in play that would lead to a sustained attempt to shift the government landscape.



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