x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bahrain royals silent on how future PMs will be chosen

Senior royals yesterday declined to respond to the opposition leader's call for the king to choose the prime minister from the citizens rather than the ruling family.

MANAMA // Senior royals yesterday declined to respond to the opposition leader's call for the king to choose the prime minister from the citizens rather than the ruling family.

"It is not a matter of putting an answer onto my tongue," Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al Khalifa, the minister of justice and Islamic affairs, told The National while meeting journalists to discuss the election process on the eve of the poll. "My opinion will be determined through a kind of a dialogue."

"The things, or the agendas or the requests of any party will be translated, interpreted tomorrow into the ballot box," Sheikh Khalid said.

"The main issue is that we have a system of inclusivity to get all people to state their demands as long as it is in accordance with the law and does not negate the benefit of the country."

Another member of the royal family, the president of the government's information affairs authority, Fawaz bin Mohammed al Khalifa, said: "I'll tell you [my opinion] after the election."

Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the largest opposition party, the Shiite-dominated Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, told a rally of about 20,000 supporters in a suburb of Manama on Wednesday that the ruling family was owed the "respect and consideration" of the population.

"We look forward to the day where any child of the people, be they Sunni or Shiite, can become prime minister," Sheikh Ali said, stressing that he was not calling for immediate change and it should come about peacefully.

Another candidate for the society, Abduljalil Ebrahim, said Sheikh Ali has once before called for the government's top post to be filled by a member of the public and afterwards he was accused of trying to overthrow the regime.

About 318,000 Bahrainis will choose between 127 candidates in today's parliamentary election. The 40 winners will form the Council of Representatives, the country's lower house, to legislate alongside an appointed chamber known as the Consultative Council.

Bahrain's executive authority is selected by the royal family and royals hold many of the posts. The current prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, the king's uncle, has held the position since the country gained its independence in 1971.

Bahrain's elections have been marred by allegations of government manipulation by methods such as political naturalisation, moving votes between constituencies and the establishment of electoral boundaries that favour its supporters.

Protests have erupted across the country since August, and more than 250 men are said to have been detained.

"We have no previous, future, or present experience of making fraud," Sheikh Khaled added. "We have to continue as we have been - honest, and doing what we can."

 

jcalderwood@thenational.ae