In a news conference held on 17 August 2011, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Ali Salman, reiterated key demands of opposition groups. He stressed the need for an elected government, a parliament with full authorities, fair electoral districts via the global principle of one person one vote as well as independent judiciary.
Sheikh Ali summarized Bahrain’s problem to that of absence of democracy and absence of popular will in the formation of executive cabinet and merely electing half of the national assembly. He suggested that the problem facing the kingdom since 14 February 2011 events relates to unwilling of the authorities of allowing for democracy using pretexts such as presence of different religious denominations in Bahrain and regional sensitivity.
Sheikh Ali went on say that opposition groups aim at turning Bahrain into a civilian democracy, where all equal before law. Conversely, the country is run on the basis of tribes and families, a far cry from modern practices elsewhere.
Still, Sheikh Ali stressed in Bahrain loyalty rather than ability counts in governmental appointments. Still, he asked for explanation for denying a large section of the population employment opportunities in the army aside from foreign posts.
In addition, Sheikh Ali made it clear that Al-Wefaq is not adopting slogans such as “people want downfall of the system,” or other personal slogans toward the royal family. Instead, the society likes to see democracy taking shape in Bahrain, with all its virtues including making sure all are equal before law.
Moreover, Sheikh Ali stressed that Al-Wefaq and opposition groups are determined to refuse prosthetic solutions to outstanding problems facing the country. Certainly, incomplete deals notably marginalizing people are not acceptable whatsoever.
Concurrently, Sheikh Ali stressed that the society is resolute towards achieving its goals via peaceful and only peaceful means. Planned movements include popular, political and informational actions, at home and abroad.
Still, Sheikh Ali called on reforms in the country including those within the system to work together with opposition groups towards achieving democracy in the country. And he called on Arab people to endorse calls for democracy in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, to name a few. Also, he called on to people around the word and entities to support change democratic wishes, which can guarantee stability and establishment of ties based on respect.
Sheikh Ali suggested that Al-Wefaq took part in parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2010 in the hope of bringing about change such as constitutional amendments but faced numerous roadblocks. Conversely, he made it clear that Al-Wefaq and other opposition groups have independently announced their decisions of boycotting by-polls set for September 2011. This represents the largest ever boycotting of elections in the country, more so than 2002 (the Democratic National Tribune took part in 2002 elections)
In response to suggestions by Minister of Justice questioning per cent of votes Al-Wefaq candidates have won in 2010 elections, Sheikh Ali called for a popular referendum on outstanding issues facing the country. These issues include nature of the government and powers of the parliament.
Sheikh Ali expressed his unease about roles being played by those opposing reforms. He cited the examples of His Majesty King Hamad ordering transferring court cases from military tribunals to civilian courts as well as reinstatement of sacked people. Yet, some in the system showed determination to do just the opposite.
Last but not least, Sheikh Ali warned that absence of democracy translates into continuation of financial and administrative wrongdoing in Bahrain. Those opposing reforms are contempt in putting their hands on public properties including coastal areas.
In response to questions from media professionals, Sheikh Ali made it clear Sheikh Isa Qassem, the most senior religious leader in the country, was not behind Al-Wefaq’s decision to boycott the by-polls. Instead, the decision was made through normal channels in the society.
Responding to another question, Sheikh Ali revealed traveling recently to Turkey to meet officials to talk about democracy. He stressed that experience shows that democracy is the most successful system, citing Turkey as an example.