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Tue 16 Aug 2011 11:50 AM

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Bahrain says opposition boycott hurting democracy

Main Shi’ite opposition party has said it will boycott parliamentary elections

Bahrain says opposition boycott hurting democracy
Bahrain has faced international pressure to begin reconciliation after a fierce crackdown on protesters

Bahrain's Sunni-led government on Monday criticised a
decision by the main Shi'ite opposition group to boycott parliamentary
elections, saying the move would not help foster democracy in the Gulf Arab
kingdom.

The opposition bloc, Wefaq, said last week it would not take
part in the Sept. 24 elections to fill nearly half of the parliament's 40 seats
vacated when its deputies resigned over a crackdown on anti-government
protests.

The move follows a "National Dialogue" that the
small island state - which hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet - held to defuse
tension after the crackdown that included widespread arrests and allegations of
torture.

"Bahrain's enduring democracy is contingent on a strong
voting process... However, for the democratic process to be effective, voters
need to be able to freely elect individuals that will articulate concerns to
the government on their behalf," Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled al-Khalifa
said.

Wefaq also pulled out of the dialogue, which led to the king
expanding the powers of the elected parliament while reserving the broader
power of an appointed upper chamber.

"A stronger democracy in Bahrain is imminent, but all
perspectives and views need to be involved in the process. Disengagement will
not foster mutual respect or democracy. It will only hinder it," Sheikh
Khaled said in a statement.

Wefaq's MPs quit as Bahrain moved to quash the protests,
which were led by its Shi'ite majority and called for broader political
liberties and an end to sectarian discrimination. A few Shi'ite groups sought
to abolish the monarchy.

Bahrain in March called in troops from fellow Sunni-led
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to crush the protests, detaining more
than a thousand people, at least four of whom died in custody.

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