I know I know, I’m a glutton for punishment. That’s why even while on holiday, I can’t help but follow the news in Bahrain; but then I give myself a break and some hilarity by reading the Bahraini local papers online and chief amongst those providing me of some merriment of course are the sycophantic Gulf Daily News and the incredibly unimaginative andÂ obsequious Daily Tribune. I tend to not look at Akhbar Alkhaleej, Alwatan or Alayam unless I feel that my blood pressure is on a low side that particular day, leaving my edification of all things news about my little spit of a country to international online sources of repute.
As to the “noos”, it’s no surprise that all local papers are leading with something or another about the forthcoming by-elections, with a continuous articles and bylines “encouraging” the electorate to go to the ballot boxes and submit their votes. The areas affected of course are those vacated by the Al-Wefaq 18 who were responsible for over 187,000 voters accounting for 48% – 65% of the eligible electorate, depending on who you talk to.
I use the term “encouraging” with poetic license here of course, because all I’ve read so far does not entice voters to participate, but threaten them almost with ex-communication if they don’t! The regime, not unsurprisingly, wants this “political experiment” to succeed, or at least give the impression of success; hence, they seem to be using their usual mouth-pieces and threat of arms – as in police protection to voters – to do so.
The “encouragement” is somewhat contradictory though. Consider this from the Al-Mahmood who intriguingly called for the dismissal of the reigning prime minister – one of the ubiquitous red lines the country is filled with – only to now make concerted and continuous efforts to retract those statements by espousing even more extreme – and sometimes farcical – positions, like this one for instance, to probably compensate for his error in judgement, ehm, sorry, the Washington Times misrepresenting his statements:
A total of 187,080 people will be eligible to cast their ballots during the September 24 election being held to fill seats vacated by members of opposition group Al Wefaq. Authorities have pledged to do their utmost to safeguard voters and candidates after several candidates said they were threatened by groups opposed to the process.
Dr Al Mahmood condemned those who were seeking to pressurise Bahrain’s silent majority in the name of religion or sect.
Okay… strange that a cleric opposes using religion for anything, it’s their stock-in-trade and the reason for their existence in any case.
Quoting the Quran, he said Muslims must cherish the values of uprightness and probity while assuming their duties towards their well-being and that of humanity. [source]
Ah, that’s better! He’s quoting the Quran. So it’s okay for him but not for the others. I understand.
I don’t particularly care what any cleric says in regards to pluralism and democracy because we already know their positions intimately. What I do care about is the position of the state in this; if it censures one cleric for meddling in politics, why doesn’t it for this guy as well? Or is censure only reserved to those who oppose it?
As to participation in any elections, isn’t my decision whether to vote my democratic right? Why then all these shenanigans with ministers, other officials and paid-for journalists continuously harping on, threatening, urging and cajoling us to do so? My suggestion to all of them is to simply leave us alone to practice the democracy they’re so hung up on and be prepared to accept the free and unfettered result of our actions.
Getting people to believe in the democratic process and be active participants in it do not require all these machinations. All it does, is having a fair and equitable platform off of which we can leverage the powers of democracy to better ours and the country’s lot. Those don’t include threats and a concerted effort to lay the blame of your failures on your opposition.