During the 9th session of the National Dialogue, concluded with delegates finalised their discussions under the Rights theme.
Dialogue on the Social theme concluded in a previous session. Discussions on electoral constituencies sparked a heated debate, but participants agreed on the need for a fairer system.
Delegates achieved consensus on Bahrain’s international human rights commitments and discussed ways of improving government revenues and their redistribution.
Delegates engaged in a heated debate on the divisive question of electoral constituencies, reviewing the four proposals on the table: reducing the number of electoral constituencies from 40 to 5; merging electoral constituencies into a single constituency; maintaining the existing system with 40 constituencies.
They achieved consensus on the need for a fairer system, with delegates’ comments and positions to be included in the list of recommendations from the Dialogue.
Some participants criticized the current system, pointing out that the geographical distribution of constituencies did not reflect the demography of Bahrain.
They preferred a system with either one or five constituencies, which would reduce inconsistencies and provide greater opportunity for women and minority groups to be represented in elections.
Others preferred the current system, arguing that smaller constituencies allow MPs to know their needs and aspirations better.
Some delegates thought that reducing the number of constituencies would create sectarian quotas in parliament, leading to chaos and political crisis.
They noted that the current boundaries were based on international standards.
Consensus was reached on the proposal that the children of Bahraini women married to foreign nationals would be granted Bahraini citizenship according to a clear set of rules.
The main economic debate focused on the redistribution of government subsidies and improving government revenues.
Delegates supported the development of mechanisms to manage the expenditure of government institutions and agreed that national companies and organisations should be restructured to improve productivity and competitiveness.
They agreed on the need to improve social justice by increasing subsidies for the less privileged while reducing benefits without affecting basic wages and needs.
They called for an in-depth study to identify low-income target groups and improve the redistribution of government support. Delegates highlighted the need to diversify the country’s sources of income, reducing dependency on oil and boosting sectors such as tourism, industry, and real estate among others.
They also called for a comprehensive study to explore ways of increasing indirect taxes and introducing a corporate income tax in line with GCC rules.
Some participants saw these taxes as a necessary and beneficial step to improve the national economy while others feared that it would deter investors.
Delegates agreed to establish an authority for national reconciliation and called for a national programme to promote human rights awareness among official and civil society organisations, and in particular among law enforcement personnel.
Participants supported the proposal that Bahrain should sign and join international human rights treaties and protocols while respecting its religious and cultural traditions.
At the same time, international commitments should be fully transposed into national legislation. Participants called on the government to regularly review its reservations towards certain international human rights agreements, and asked that the oversight for human rights organisations be transferred from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Rights to the Parliament.
Participants agreed to bolster the rights of women and children, ensuring that the law is correctly applied, and decided to improve coordination between the government and civil society organisations protecting the rights of people with special needs.
They agreed to develop rules to prohibit discrimination against naturalised citizens.
Consensus are the electoral system, naturalisation and directing subsidies and human rights Participants in the national dialogue will continue discussing consensus on a number of issues in the dialogue’s main themes to reach what would serve the interests of the country and to establish a solid base for the reform process as a support of the democracy, for which His Majesty the King laid the foundations.
The participants in the political theme are set to discuss the electoral system sub-theme which includes consensus on constituencies, naturalization and the electoral system, while the economic theme participants will discuss the redirection of subsidies and the contribution by the society towards the development and views related to reducing the budget deficit, identifying target groups, the returns of directing government subsidies, and social justice.
As for the rights theme participants will resume discussing the sub-theme related to human rights, including the aligning of national laws with international conventions on human rights, human rights organisations and their advocates, human rights and international organisations, implementation of the principles of human rights. The participants in the social theme have concluded all listed views during last Tuesday’s session.