Monday, April 20, 2009

Amending Bahrain's Constitution

This month's Arab Reform Bulletin has an overview of attempts to amend the Bahraini consitution to give Parliament more power. The key point, however, seems buried at the bottom:
"Thus far negotiations between the blocs of the lower house are moving slowly. The blocs will meet again in April but are unlikely to reach a workable agreement despite their statements to the contrary. And the fact remains that even if they do agree on a proposed set of amendments, they would need to gain the support of 27 of the appointed Shura members, nearly an impossible task.

"Al-Wefaq’s MPs will get one thing, however, out of all these tedious and probably fruitless negotiations. They will be able to go back to their constituents and prove that they tried hard to change parts of the constitution, as promised during their election campaigns. It remains to be seen how well that will work to shore up public support for al-Wefaq in view of constant campaigns from other opposition movements (such as Haqq) that eschew participation in a system they view as fundamentally unfair."

In other words, different parliamentary factions are trying to reach an agreement on some amendments, and if they do, it won't matter anyway since they have to get 27 of the 40 members of a different chamber hand-picked by the regime to go along with them. Al-Wefaq is going to claim that they tried hard, and hope that persuades people to stay with them rather than support an opposition group that boycotts the system. Isn't this course of events more likely to make the system rejectionists' case for them?



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