Six Bahraini opposition political parties said Thursday (March 3rd) that the government must meet four conditions before they will agree to participate in a dialogue requested by Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
The opposition's major conditions include election of a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution and establishment of an elected government with full legislative authority.
The six societies include the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the National Democratic Action, the Progressive Democratic Tribune, the Nationalist Democratic Rally Society, the National Brotherhood Society, and the National Democratic Rally.
The opposition also called for the release of any remaining political prisoners and a formal investigation into the deaths of demonstrators during the recent protests.
Abdel Jalil Khalil, head of the al-Wefaq Bloc, which withdrew from the House of Representatives, told Al-Shorfa, "The six opposition parties wanted to demonstrate their readiness to participate in the national dialogue by outlining key points to ensure its success, primarily the resignation of the current government, setting a timetable for the dialogue, and election of a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution for Bahrain".
Khalil said the opposition's demands, particularly the call for a constitutional monarchy and an elected assembly, "are clear", adding that the right to protest is a fundamental human right. Al-Wefaq holds 18 of 40 seats in a parliament that has limited authority.
More than 350,000 citizens participated in a pro-government rally Wednesday evening in front of the Al-Fatih Islamic Centre in Manama.
In a speech at the gathering, Sheikh Abdul Latif al-Mahmoud, president of the Sunni Gathering of National Unity, called on the government to implement laws that give people their full right to public services, housing, and higher wages. He rejected calls for the government to resign.
Asked about the demonstration led by the Sunni Gathering of National Unity, Khalil said, "The Sunni Gathering has the right to demonstrate, and there are common issues. We do not want to get into sectarian strife because our demands are purely political."
Abdullah al-Dusari, head of the Independent Bloc in the House of Representatives, called on the opposition to be sensible and begin a dialogue without setting any pre-conditions to the talks.
Al-Dusari said al-Wefaq should return to parliament "because it is the appropriate place for legislation". He renewed his call for the creation of a suitable environment that would support a national dialogue "as soon as possible".
"I completely reject those who define the constitution of Bahrain by the 2002 and 1973 dates," he told Al-Shorfa. "Our constitution is derived from the National Action Charter, which received majority approval. It was not imported from outside."
Regarding the rights of the protesters to hold the sit-in demonstrations in the Pearl Square, al-Dusari said, "There is no objection to any rally or demonstration as long as it is within Bahraini law. Whoever wants freedom of expression must show respect for the law and not violate its articles."
Adel al-Sifir, a board member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said several businessmen met at the chamber Thursday and agreed to form a committee, headed by former Minister of Education Ali Fakhro, to assess the economic impact of the latest events.
According to al-Sifir, the committee will meet with political parties and then communicate their views to the Crown Prince to find solutions to the crisis. He said businesses such as stores, hotels, and restaurants were affected by the demonstrations, but he was optimistic about a quick return to stability.