Bahrain’s Shia opposition has unveiled a roadmap for restarting national dialogue talks suspended last month, and renewed demands for a constitutional monarchy in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
The proposals were published on Saturday on the eve of the third anniversary of Shia-led protests against the government that erupted on February 14 2011, and which have left Bahrain politically deadlocked since.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa met opposition leaders in mid-January to try revive the national dialogue, days after the government suspended the talks which had opened a year ago.
The reconciliation talks, which the main Shia opposition had boycotted, are designed to bring the Sunni-ruled country with a Shia majority out of its political crisis.
The Shia opposition, led by the main movement Al-Wefaq, urged authorities to free “prisoners of conscience”, as well as “suspend political processes”, and stop “incitation to sectarian hatred”.
In a statement published by Al-Wefaq and detailing the roadmap to restart the dialogue, the opposition said it was ready for “three meetings a week” to speed up reconciliation talks, and that their conclusions should be put to the vote in a referendum.
But it also called for the development of a new electoral code for a “fair and transparent” election, supervised by an independent electoral commission, and a guarantee of “equality between citizens”.
Besides a parliament with “full legislative powers” and an “elected government”, the Shia opposition also want talks on reforming the judiciary and to put an end to the policy of naturalising foreigners, which the Shia opposition is strongly opposed to.
After a first session of talks failed in July 2011, the national dialogue resumed in February 2013, only to be suspended by the government on January 9.
But five groups, including Al-Wefaq, had already pulled out of the talks in September after prominent Shia ex-MP Khalil Marzooq was arrested on charges of inciting terrorism.
At least 89 people have been killed since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.