x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Demonstration blocks entrance to Bahrain PM's office

Campaign in Bahrain enters third week as protesters continue to demonstrate against lack of jobs and call for reform.

MANAMA // Thousands of Shiite opposition supporters blocked the entrance to the Bahraini prime minister's office but failed to disrupt a government meeting yesterday as the campaign for reform enters its third week.

Bahrain's Shiite majority has long complained of discrimination and political persecution in the kingdom,. The protesters demanded that the prime minister step down because of alleged corruption and a crackdown on the opposition in which seven people were killed.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the prime minister and the king's uncle, has been in power for 40 years. Sheikh Khalifa was presiding over a weekly meeting of government ministers yesterday.

The Shiite opposition groups have called for a constitutional monarchy, but some of the protesters camped out in the capital's Pearl Square are demanding that the Sunni monarchy step aside altogether.

One house of Bahrain's parliament is the only elected body, but it holds limited authority since all the country's decisions, including the appointment of government ministers, rest with the king.

Even the 40-member institution has been in limbo since the 18 opposition legislators resigned last month in protest at the government's deadly crackdown.

The king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has taken some steps to end the Shiite revolt

Sheikh Hamad assigned Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to lead talks with the opposition and ordered the creation of 20,000 new government jobs.

Unemployment is particularly high among Shiite youth. They complain of government jobs often being given to Sunnis from Arab countries and Pakistan, who were allegedly granted Bahraini nationality to boost Sunni numbers in the Gulf nation.

Opposition leaders have accepted Prince Salman's invitation for talks, but no date has been set for them to meet.