Bahrainis Agree Overwhelmingly to National Charter
An overwhelming majority of 98.4 percent of Bahraini voters have said yes to the charter transforming the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain into a constitutional monarchy and restoring parliament after it was scarped 26 years ago, the Bahrain satellite channel reported, citing the justice ministry official results on Friday.
The results were announced during an official ceremony at the Emiri Palace in Manama.
According to the official statement, 191,790 out of 217,579 registered voters approved the national charter.
The charter has been hailed as a serious step towards liberalization. Opposition forces also decided to take part in the referendum after changes introduced by Emir Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, including an amnesty which saw political prisoners freed.
Political debate has also been heightening after years of oppression, which saw at least 38 people killed during anti-government unrest between 1994 and 1999.
Under the new charter before voters this week, a new parliament will be created by 2004, with its lower house to be elected, while members of the upper house will be appointed by the emir.
An independent parliament has been the major demand of Bahraini opposition, mostly Shiites who had almost no political power although they constitute 60 percent of the population.
Sheikh Hamad al-Khalifa assumed the throne of the tiny Gulf island after the death of his late father in 1999 and has promised reform since then.
Information minister, Mohammad Ibrahim Mutawa, told reporters on Thursday that the government has “drawn conclusions from previous experience and will avoid the errors of the past." – Albawaba.com