BJDM spoke to Radhi Al-Mosawi, the Secretary-General of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), about the political situation in Bahrain after the failure of several attempts to hold dialogue between the opposition and government. BJDM also discussed the opposition’s future outlook of the Bahraini political crisis in Bahrain.
BJDM: What is the opposition’s view amid the current complicated political crisis in Bahrain?
Radhi Al-Mosawi: The opposition sees that there is no way out of this political crisis in Bahrain except through sitting at a dialogue table and holding negotiations between opposition democratic factions, represented by five societies, and the government, in addition to the other political societies to reach agreements that we all commit to and implement. Otherwise, the situation will rapidly deteriorate. This opposition has developed within the past years and we managed to discuss our issues on the table.
However, the current political constitutional crisis is creating other livelihood and economic issues. The public debt has even reached high rates, 10 billion BD, which accounts to more than 25 billion USD. This constitutes more than 78% of Bahrain’s GDP, which is about 33 billion Dollars. These facts, have undoubtedly, led to this debt. We pay 400 million BD as interest, which accounts to over billion dollars annually. If this money were invested in real developing projects, we would have achieved a lot on the humane sustainable development level.
Therefore, we are facing a big crisis. How can we solve the problem of trust between the opposition and government? We, as an opposition, have clear projects. Our project was the Manama Document and we said that this document should be placed on the dialogue table and we should negotiate it.
BJDM: Was the Manama Document discussed, in private or in public, with the government?
Radhi Al-Mosawi: This document was issued by the political societies and we exposed it to the civil society institutions and other political societies, in order to reach any agreements because the demand we are asking for can only be achieved through the political system that enjoys the financial capability, authority, power and decision-making. When we released these documents, which are public, the authority’s stance was negative and therefore, it did not address it, although this document is not inconsistent with the Crown Prince’s seven principles. We did not invent gunpowder but organized these demands, put them in a document form and presented them. We also asked for starting the negotiation of these demands and said that the Crown Prince’s 7-priniciple initiative constitutes an important basis for this document. We are open to this political system.
BJDM: How can the opposition contribute to changing the current crisis in Bahrain through participating in the legislative powers or government?
When there is real reform and real return to the National Action Charter that stipulated establishment of a constitutional monarchy like the former ancient democracies, I think in this case we can say that we are on the right track.
We will contribute when there is an elected parliament with full power and a legislative power that is able to hold accountable the executive power. We cannot remain in this situation for a long period of time – yet we have already remained as such for several decades – and thus we reached catastrophic results at the end on the economic, political, social and educational levels.
Therefore, there is a huge defect accompanying the government. We can overcome this by contributing to the reform process and start reforming what we can, especially when it comes to the political crisis that will, undoubtedly, have economic and social effects.
BJDM: We have witnessed several attempts to hold a dialogue between the opposition and government, however, all of these attempts failed. Do you, as opposition, have specific conditions for holding the dialogue? Are you ready to compromise for the sake of holding this dialogue and reaching political settlement with the government?
Radhi Al-Mosawi: We did not put any condition for holding a dialogue with the government. Our main condition was to hold a serious dialogue. We did not go to the dialogue sessions to waste time. We are talking about Bahrain’s future. When dialogue starts, it has to be serious, meaningful and lead to real results.
These previous dialogues were neither real nor meaningful. They were held only to waste time, exploit some opposing views and present the dialogue in a public relations campaign as successful to the west while it is in fact failing in Bahrain.
No party can impose its opinion on the other, unless it was convincing and can save the society from the political, sectarian and economic tensions and lead it towards building. Yet this needs many years. We have a lot of integrated projects that we can discuss with the government.
Our demand ceiling is the one we voted for; a constitutional monarchy similar to the former ancient democracies. This is our ceiling that the Bahraini people voted on by 98% or even more. This is a real percentage; it is not fabricated. The will of the opposition contradicted with that of the government, thus we resorted to voting. We voted to return to the articles of the Manama document for it is the only way out of this crisis.
BJDM: Can the opposition hold a serious dialogue with the government when the opposition leaders like Sheikh Ali Salman, Ibrahim Sharif, Majeed Milad and others are behind bars?
Radhi Al-Mosawi: When Ibrahim Sharif was in the prison, we were with Majeed Milad and Sheikh Ali Salman negotiating and talking with the government on a dialogue table, because the dialogue aims at easing tensions; i.e. achieving security and political relief through releasing all the prisoners of conscience. We went to the dialogue table with this mentality; let’s calm the atmosphere.
How can we achieve an actual easing of tensions while there are thousands in prisons, including the leaders? These leaders don’t want to get out of jail unless all women and children are released. I think releasing the opposition leaders and holding a dialogue is a parallel and correlated issue. There should be a concurrence between the dialogue process and release process. There can’t be a dialogue under force. In order to hold a dialogue, the people should feel comfortable so that they can speak freely to one another and to the government.
BJDM: What is the opposition’s future outlook of the Bahraini crisis?
Radhi Al-Mosawi: If things continued at this rate, we will be facing a severe economic crisis. The earnings of citizens are being stolen from by the government lift of subsidies amid stability in wages. This means a large group of middle class citizens will descend to the class of limited income and a large group of the limited income class will descend to the poor class. This will trigger the situation more, which we don’t want to happen.
We want social stability and peace in Bahrain. We are optimistic because we see that the future and time can put make people take on their responsibilities. We call on the government to be ready to take a serious and courageous step by calming the situation through achieving security and holding a serious dialogue.