Sunday, February 20, 2011

Most Encouraging Protest Sign I've Seen in Weeks

Taken by Nick Kristof of the New York Times and posted on his Twitter account yesterday at the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain:

The ball is firmly in the court of the royal family of Bahrain, the Al Khalifa. What happens next? I see a few possibilities:

1. The protestors follow the moderate, peaceful course of this sign and there's a longer stalemate, as the family resists making any concessions to share more political power. Most likely, but also most likely to create a resurgence of turmoil.

2. The protestors stay moderate and real concessions are made to share power with the Shia majority population. The best possibility.

3. The protestors stay moderate and there is another violent crackdown on them. Worst possibility of all.

4. The protestors split, with the young people demanding the overthrow of the monarchy and the older generation negotiating with the regime, which makes a few superficial concessions to keep the peace for the short-term. This is closer to what happened from 2001 to the present, when King Hamad was able to get the Shia al-Wefaq political movement* to run for elections to the lower house of parliament, despite the fact that the parliament is quite toothless and the districts are gerrymandered so that the Shia can only snag about 18 seats (the current strength of al-Wefaq after recent elections). Call this "the return to the status quo" option: young people getting shot and detained in the streets, the older generation negotiating with the power structure. Obviously, this status quo led to the current crisis, so it's not preferable.

Scenarios 1 and 4 seem most likely, but you can pray for all sides to embrace 2 and for the regime to avoid 3.
* For a quick background on the main political movements in Bahrain, see this Reuters story.

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