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Friday, November 16, 2007

Re: Assessing al-Wefaq’s Parliamentary Experiment


The Arab Reform Bulletin: November 2007 , is out.

It includes a short comment I made on Jane Kinninmont's article ( October 2007)

" Jane Kinninmont’s article (October 2007) rightly notes that it is too early to judge al-Wefaq’s participation in parliamentary politics. Kinninmont captures several important factors behind Al-Wefaq’s failure to translate its numerical strength into real political and legislative gains. These include the limits imposed by the constitution of 2002, the constraining structure of the half-elected, half-appointed parliament, and the unwillingness of the ruling family to give up any of its privileges.

Additional factors can be found within al-Wefaq’s own leadership structure. Ali Salman, the group’s public leader, plays a minor role compared to that of spiritual leader Issa Qassim, whose conservative political and religious outlook sets al-Wefaq’s political priorities.

Al-Wefaq’s failure to live up to its electoral promises is directly linked to Qassim’s reluctance to provoke the government. In return, the government has refrained from introducing legislation that limits the clerics’ authority, such as a personal status law regulating women’s rights within the family.

I doubt that al-Wefaq’s parliamentary performance can improve while it oscillates ineffectively between the whims and fears of its conservative mentor and the demands of its largely impoverished and fragmented constituencies."


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