Tensions are mounting in Bahrain ahead of planned parliamentary elections next week, with opposition supporters vowing to hold a mass demonstration in the capital, Manama. Next Saturday’s poll will fill 18 seats abandoned by the main opposition al-Wefaq party, who quit in February over the government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Mattar Mattar, one of the legislators who resigned, says the decision to replace all of the opposition parliamentarians is proof that the nation’s leaders are neglecting the grievances of the people. “They are trying to ignore us, but this plan will not succeed. They are going on the wrong track. Without opening a real dialogue and without going for real political reform it’s difficult to reach stability here,” he said.
Bahrain’s political opposition comprises, in large part, the nation’s majority Shi’ite Muslims, who say they are treated like second-class citizens by the ruling Sunni minority. They have been calling for more rights and for the introduction of a constitutional monarchy.
Some hardliners in the opposition have been demanding the abolition of the monarchy, and as unrest continues, their numbers are growing.
Clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters take place nearly every night in Shi’ite neighborhoods.
According to rights groups, about 40 people have been killed and more than a thousand detained since February. The government has defended the crackdown, saying it is needed to reinstate stability.