Protests unlikely as Bahrain lifts martial law

Gulf kingdom has warned against fresh unrest, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa promises reform
Protests unlikely as Bahrain lifts martial law
Bahrains Ministry of Justice has warned against a resurgence of protests, like those seen in February and March
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Wed 01 Jun 2011 09:49 AM

Pro-reform protesters in Bahrain are unlikely to call for renewed demonstration as the Gulf kingdom prepares Wednesday to lift a state of emergency imposed in March, analysts said.

The island’s rulers called in Gulf troops and imposed martial law in a bid to quell anti-government protests inspired by uprisings that brought down rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

A resurgence of hostilities is unlikely but tensions will remain high, Christopher Davidson, author of 'Power and Politics in the Persian Gulf Monarchies', told Arabian Business.

“I’m not expecting a big demonstration to be held there any time soon. It’s been made quite clear by the regime in Bahrain that nothing will be tolerated [and] that any future protest will be met with a crackdown,” he said. 

Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, faced a wave of Shi’ite-led protests in February and March that left at least 29 people dead, including four policemen, and dozens more injured. .

The Ministry of Justice on Tuesday warned protestors that its hardline approach remained. It cautioned against “any type of activities that could affect security or harm the national peace and safety.”

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Tuesday called for talks on reform involving all parties in the Gulf Arab state "without preconditions" from July 1, the state news agency said.

Negotiations should “comprehensive, serious and without preconditions”, BNA quoted the King as saying.

Bahrain's crown prince, widely seen as a moderate, also said last week he was committed to the reform path and said the Gulf state would listen to both domestic and international concerns.

The kingdom is also keen to reinstate its prestigious Formula One race. The March event was scrapped because of the unrest, but the kingdom is in talks to reinstate it to the racing calendar later this year.

Despite the promise of reform, analysts have said that tensions in the kingdom will remain high.

“Sectarian tensions have been inflamed and violence and repression, which is more and more coming to light in the international community, will keep the protestors simmering for many months to come,” said Davidson.

Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said protests could re-erupt in the future in the government fails to keep pace with reform.

“There’s potential for demonstrations looking forward. When that will occur is probably during some kind of anniversary or some kind of statement that is made by someone,” he said.

“The important thing to remember is that these [protestors] are very patient and they know they are being watched so they’ll move slowly. There may be a handful who will act as hooligans and those people you may see sooner rather than later.”

For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.