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Tue 31 Jan 2012 06:03 PM

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Arabs back Bahrain gov't to make reforms

New opinion poll shows confidence in rulers to carry out promised reforms after unrest

Arabs back Bahrain gov't to make reforms
Bahrain has seen regular protests since the start of the unrest in early 2011

A majority of Arabs claim to have confidence in Bahrain's government to carry out promised reforms in the wake of protests in the Gulf kingdom last year, according to the latest Doha Debates opinion poll.

The findings are in sharp contrast to the views of the audience who attended the December edition of The Doha Debates, where 78 percent gave the Bahraini government a vote of no confidence on its promise to reform.

Some 40 people died in the unrest, while 2,000 were sacked from state jobs. A report last month found Bahraini police used excessive force and “systemic” torture against protestors.

The opinion poll, which surveyed 1,008 people in the GCC, North Africa and the Levant, found most support for the government in neighbouring Gulf states.

Sixty percent of respondents in the GCC said they opposed the ongoing public protests in Bahrain, and 41 percent from the region believe that the Bahraini government's crackdown on the demonstrations was "the right thing to do".

Around one third of those questioned in North Africa and the Levant said they believe the government crackdown was needed but was done too violently (33 percent and 34 percent respectively).

Although a majority (around two thirds) "trusted" the government's intentions, a considerable proportion of respondents said they would still like to see free and democratic elections take place in Bahrain.

The survey was carried out by the polling company YouGov between January 8-14.

Earlier this month, Bahrain's king announced constitutional amendments giving parliament more powers of scrutiny over government, but the opposition said they fell far short of demands for democracy that have driven a year of unrest in the Gulf Arab state.

Rating agency Standard & Poor's said last week that the outlook for Bahrain remains negative, indicating the likelihood of a downgrade if renewed political tensions, slower growth, or lower oil prices weaken its economy.

S&P said that in its view the dynamics of Bahrain's internal political conflict "remain unchanged, with entrenched polarisation indicating prolonged tensions".