Bahrain's exiled opposition called Thursday for a "no" vote in next week's referendum on a national charter to restore parliament and turn the Gulf emirate into a kingdom, reported AFP.
"The opposition has reservations on the charter plan and calls for a 'no' vote on the project" in the February 14-15 referendum, the Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM) said in a statement sent to AFP.
In the run-up to the referendum, the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, declared a general amnesty on Monday, releasing on parole 289 political prisoners and allowing the return of 108 exiles, and urged the opposition figures to return to the country.
While the BFM said it welcomed the emir's initiative to restore democracy and "turn a new page," the London-based opposition said the charter "falls short of the expectations of Bahrainis and contravenes the terms of the constitution."
"The constitution lays down the sovereignty of the people, but the charter transfers this sovereignty to the emir or (future) king, something which is unacceptable," the BFM said.
It warned that the charter would "handicap the legislative branch" and delegate "full power to the emir to do whatever he wishes after the referendum, including the transformation of Bahrain into a kingdom under unspecified terms," said the statement.
The Shiite-led opposition has long agitated for the restoration of an elected parliament, which was launched in 1973 but dissolved two years later for "obstructing" the government. Unrest between 1994 and 1999 cost at least 38 lives.
On Sunday, Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, urged all Bahrainis, including the opposition, to vote in the referendum that turns the country into a constitutional monarchy and to join "a huge leap forward" into democracy, said the Gulf News -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )