Voices in Parliament, Debates in Majalis, and Banners on Streets: Avenues of Political Participation in Bahrain (paper)
This paper tries to analyze political participation in Bahrain in its diverse forms, in formal and informal spheres and those in between. It aims to delineate these entanglements by at first presenting the structural setting of Bahraini politics, describing the limitations to formal political participation set by the authoritarian state. Then the institutions in their varying degrees of formality will be identified in which political actors pursue their aims. In a next step focuses on three exemplary groups of actors that due to their different toward the formal state institutions have developed divergent strategies and use different loci. It will be shown how Bahraini political actors are caught up in various blockages. Their strategic options are currently defined by their positions toward parliament. While actors within parliament can participate in legislation to a certain degree, those outside cannot influence any details. Those can, however, participate in agenda setting: The wider they incorporate less formal political arenas into their strategies, the more influential they become. Some strategies that appear to be directed towards exerting pressure on the government to achieve certain policy outcomes, however, aim at different ends: oppositional groups are caught in infighting, hereby losing sight of influencing the government altogether. Moreover, the fragmentation of Bahrain's society and the high level of distrust between the various political, religious and ethnic groups constrain political actors even further.