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Cablegate: Update: Democratic Reform Strategy for Bahrain

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMK #1051/01 3251413
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211413Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7432
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 1768

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 001051

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NEA/PI FOR KIAMIE
ABU DHABI FOR MEPI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2017
TAGS: PGOV KDEM BA
SUBJECT: UPDATE: DEMOCRATIC REFORM STRATEGY FOR BAHRAIN

REF: STATE 130991

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Christopher Henzel for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Bahrain's government remains engaged in an experiment in democratic reform that began in 1999 and intensified in 2002 with the adoption of the current constitution and the restoration of the elected Council of Representatives (COR) that had been suspended in the 1970s. The 2006 parliamentary election was a significant step forward for democratization efforts as the most prominent Shi'a political society, Al-Wifaq, opted to participate in the election and won eighteen of forty seats. Al-Wifaq remains the largest bloc in the COR, but its inability to deliver significant gains for its constituents is causing frustration in the Shi'a community. Al-Wifaq faces a growing challenge from unregistered movements such as Al-Haq, which call on Bahrain's Shi'a majority to withdraw from politics and confront the government in the streets.

2.(C) Given this challenge to the reform process, Embassy Manama's primary focus is on supporting efforts to encourage continued broad participation in the political system.

3.(C) Bahrain Reform Strategy: Strategic Focus: Bahrain remains a leader on reform in the region, both politically and economically with the signing of the FTA in 2004. We should direct our reform efforts in such a way as to help keep Bahrain at the forefront. To do that, we should focus on maintaining broad political participation, the rule of law, civic education, and press freedoms. Desired Outcomes and Benchmarks: --Al-Wifaq continues to participate in parliament, and is able to work with the government and Sunni parties in the COR to achieve progress on issues such as housing and unemployment that are among the priorities of its Shi'a constituency. --The GOB passes legislation allowing the organization of more than one labor union per enterprise. The GOB previously agreed to do so as part of its dialogue with the U.S. Congress in order to win support for ratification of the FTA. The parliament failed to pass this legislation in its last session, but the GOB has committed to reintroduce it in the current session. --Bahrain continues to improve educational opportunities and standards to prepare young Bahrainis to perform in the global marketplace. Policy: We should continue to engage Bahrainis at all levels to promote broad political participation, including Shi'a opposition groups, women, and youth. We should also leverage FTA implementation to promote good governance and the rule of law. Programming: --Programs aimed at strengthening political parties, and political campaign training for women. --Expand NDI training programs for members of parliament. --FTA technical assistance, including commercial law programs, technical advisors, and BMENA initiatives. Specific technical assistance initiatives will be reviewed during the planned U.S.-Bahrain FTA Joint Committee Review, January 9-10, 2008. --Expand training programs for journalists with a focus on improving election coverage skills in advance of 2010 parliamentary elections. --Introduce freedom of information training for journalists and officials at government ministries to promote transparency and good governance. --Expand the "My Arabic Library" distribution to include a collection in each classroom at each grade level; currently in all classrooms of grade 4 and 5 but only one collection per school for grades 1-3 and

6. --Increase university linkage programming to enhance educational quality, especially at the University of Bahrain. Focus on improving quality in English learning, teacher training and communication studies. --Enhance the "access English language microscholarship" program with follow-on learning and employment readiness opportunities for underserved Bahraini youth. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** HENZEL

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