Bahrain's Wefaq opposition party quits talks

Shia group says national dialogue was occurring "without success" and that pro-government representatives dominated.

    Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a gathering held by the opposition Wefaq party on Friday [Reuters]

    Bahrain's largest Shia Muslim opposition group, Wefaq, has said it will pull out of a national dialogue set up by the government.

    The Sunni-dominated government had initiated talks with the aim of healing sectarian divisions and offering political reform, after mass pro-democracy protests rocked the Gulf island kingdom earlier this year.
     
    "The Wefaq board decided to pull out of the so-called National Consensus Dialogue and submitted its decision to the Wefaq Shura council for ratification," Khalil al-Marzouk, Wefaq spokesman, said. "The Wefaq team will not attend today's [dialogue] session. We have tried but without success to make it a serious dialogue.

    "We found ourselves only getting three minutes in each session. Dialogue cannot resolve Bahrain's problems continuing this way," Marzouk told Al Jazeera. "We need a credible dialogue to discuss key issues."
     
    Wefaq had complained for weeks the opposition had been given too small a fraction of seats - 35 out of 300 - and was overpowered by pro-government representatives.

    The government says it distributed seats in a way that was representative of Bahraini society.

    Continuing protests

    On Friday, tens of thousands of people took part in a Wefaq gathering in the Bilad Al-Qadim area of the capital.

    In a speech, Wefaq chief Sheikh Ali Salman reiterated the demand for "radical reform centring on a government elected by the people and a parliament with full legislative powers".

    He said the movement was not calling for the fall of Bahrain, which is ruled by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa dynasty.

    Since the July 2 debut of the national dialogue, Wefaq has called for a government led by the parliamentary majority.

    The group won 18 of 40 seats in the most recent parliamentary elections, but its MPs resigned to protest against violence against demonstrators.

    Wefaq had decided only at the last minute to participate in the dialogue, encouraged by the international community, including the US, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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