All but one of the liberal candidates have not made it into the new parliament, which has a distinct Islamist feel to it: 17 Wefaq (Shi’a), 8 Minbar (Muslim Brotherhood) and 5 Asala (Salafis). That’s 75% of the make-up of parliament, but when you look closely at the rest, only one is liberal, and the rest have distinct Islamist leaning, one of those actually (Jassim Al-Saidi) is so extreme, even the Asala bloc cannot afford to publicly state that he belongs to them!
So we are left with Aziz Abul to carry the flag of non-sectarianism and moderation.
But let’s give them all (again) the benefit of the doubt and see what the next four years have in store for us.
What makes me a bit more hopeful this time is that it looks like a proper parliament; the whole of Bahrain – virtually – entered the race and chose their representatives without a call for a boycott other than the Haq party, and they do not account for a big majority. What also makes me optimistic about this parliament is that Wefaq have gone with with a clear and declared agenda, and have chosen their people wisely with a good cross-section of technocrats too. Other than that and by virtue of them being run like a proper political party, they have a full back-office to support their efforts in parliament. That back office has access to political scientists through to businessmen to advise them on proposed legislation and budgetary discussions etc.
So, even though the liberals did not make it this time and hope that they will have a much better showing in the 2010 parliament, I am sure that this parliament will be a much more effective one than the one just finished.
I hope they do not destroy the little optimism there is by going into sectarian fights which will benefit no one.
The things they should concentrate on now is the cancellation of the restrictive plethora of laws their predecessors brought out like the unconstitutional gathering and assembly law, terrorism law and also redo the press and publications law to encourage and protect the freedom of expression as well as increase the level of personal freedoms.
Good luck Parliament of 2006. The people will be watching you.