From Human Rights First
We know from Roman historian Suetonius that Julius Caesar’s reforms included a political system where half the magistrates were popularly elected and half were appointed. Such a system has served various parliaments, including Britain’s, fairly well for generations.
Bahrain ostensibly copies this bicameral model, with the 40 members of its upper house of parliament appointed by the king and the 40 members of the lower house elected every four years. But Saturday’s round of elections will be bogus, because the regime has jailed opposition leaders or forced them into exile.
Once thought to be the Gulf state most likely to reform, Bahrain resembles Saudi Arabia a little more every week. Like its powerful neighbor and benefactor, it’s revealing itself to be an erratic and unpredictable ally for the United States by insisting on an increasingly volatile repression instead of fostering stability through an inclusive politics where grievances can be safely aired and addressed.
Leading human rights activists and other dissidents are routinely jailed and tortured. The country’s only independent newspaper was forced to close last year. Al Wefaq and the other peaceful opposition groups have been banned, and anyone associated with them forbidden from contesting the elections. Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of Al Wefaq, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month after a sham trial on politically motivated charges.
Successive administrations have stayed largely mute as promised human rights reforms evaporated. At this point, giving any credence to the fake elections will only enable further repression, and confirm to Bahrain’s ruling family that the State Department will applaud its empty PR exercises in democracy while allowing it to detain and torture rights activists.
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