Sunday, November 26, 2006The elections in Bahrain have received relatively good coverage and overall noted the skepticism and distrust over the whole process due largely to the recent Bandargate scandal. "Playing by unfair rules"as the Economist aptly describes the elections. Nevertheless, you are left to wonder at times whether reporters have accidently used an Iraq or Lebanon quick template, not just for their nauseating emphasis on sectarianism where every other word is Shia or Sunni, but we also had reports of "civil war", "Muqtada al-Sadr" appearances, harbingers of potential "Shia uprising" and even plots of ethnic "cleansing". Certainly the regional situation isn't a bunch of roses, and you realise how tension can spillover indirectly from your unruly neighbours. Lebanon - Bahrain is not, however much the media would like to play up Saudi or Iranian influence on the country. It is American influence on the ruling family which determines our political course more than anything, the story ad nauseum repeats itself across the ME.
Others have preferred to attribute Bahrain's "blossoming" situation to the initiative of our "reclusive" King. 'Blossoming' maybe just slightly exaggerated, i'd prefer the word "buggered", however 'reclusive' is an unintentionally fair description - so reclusive he is in fact that he has only ONCE ever paid visit to most of the unworthy villages in a tour of the country that covered the best part of 4 kilometres from his palace. The latter being the subject of this Financial Times article; Google's gaze over palace wall spurs equality drive in Bahrain.
“Some of the palaces take up more space than three or four villages nearby and block access to the sea for fishermen. People knew this already. But they never saw it. All they saw were the surrounding walls,” said Mr Yousif, who is seen in Bahrain as the grandfather of its blogging community." Apparantly, "80 per cent of the island has been carved up between royals and other private landlords, while much of the rest of the population faces an acute housing shortage."
(An aside, I assure you that outside the geographic boundaries of Bahrain, namely in Geneva, London or Nice, reclusiveness is not a prevalent characeteristic of HH). The briefly blocked Google Earth and other "popular websites, such as the occasionally banned forum Bahrain Online, have a larger readership than any of the country's newspapers, and the young population is adept at using proxy sites to bypass official blocks." notes the Economist Intelligence Unit in Bahrain Politicals: Adversarial which on the bandergate scandal and subsequent gagging order states;
...the government has resorted to a clampdown on public discussion of Bandargate. The High Criminal Court has banned any reporting related to the report while Dr al-Bandar awaits trial, and the information ministry subsequently blocked some 20 websites (including personal blogs) that had discussed the case. In addition, two Haq activists were arrested in early November for allegedly possessing and planning to distribute leaflets encouraging Bahrainis to boycott the vote.Let us not forget that there are prisoners of conscious still dwelling in Bahraini jails while this raucus ensues.