So Bahrain's "National Day" was celebrated here just over a week ago. Along with all of the nice lights on the buildings, our streets have also been lined with billboards displaying the mugs of the ruling family. They all look something like the one shown in the photo above.
This year however I came across one billboard which was unlike any of its kind I've seen in all my years living here. See how long it takes you to spot the crucial difference:
Indeed, the Prime Minister (the King's uncle) has displaced the King from the all-important central position on the billboard. For those who aren't from Bahrain, normally we would see the King's mug occupying the centre, flanked by the faces of the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister, as seen in the photo at the top of this post. Many government and private institutions hang the rulers' portraits in their buildings, and there also the order is always the same (the King being in the middle). A few times I have even heard that it is a punishable offence to hang the portraits in a different order... that might just be a rumour, but it shows how the issue is viewed here.
So I was obviously surprised to see this order shuffled around. But I suspect there was a reason behind it; it's possibly a piece of brown-nosing left over from the wave of ass-kissing that was initially sparked by the Al-Khawaja affair. Maybe I'm reading far too much into this one billboard, but I think it's significant that it is located in the same area where one of the (attempted, but failed) "loyalty to the PM" demonstrations took place.
That some individuals are willing to replace the King with the PM (on a mere billboard albeit) gives some credence to the "Old Guard vs Reformist" theory of modelling Bahraini regime politics. I certainly feel that the internal rift has deepened in recent years and months, and it seems set to continue in the future. Let's see what happens.
Oh and if you're interested in this type of "regime art", then maybe read this post about another political billboard that I wrote a long time back .
This entry was posted
on Monday, December 27, 2004 at 12/27/2004 03:25:00 pm. Permalink
Bahrania, I think I should have explained better what exatly I mean by the "Old Guard vs Reformist" theory. It is basically a way of modelling the politics taking place within the regime itself, not Bahrain society as a whole. By "regime" I am speaking specifically of the ruling family and all of its supporters. The signals coming out of the regime recently have obviously been showing this OG/reformist split. The Crown Prince and his supporters has (for a while now) been trying to portray himself as being engaged with political and economic reform. On the other hand the PM and his supporters (ministries of defence, interior, etc) seem to show no interest in, and at times, show opposition to the CP's reform plans. The Al-Khawaja case itself illustrates this split also, with the King over-ruling the court immediately.
Now, you might want to argue that this is just a "good cop/bad cop" act. However we can't ignore that many from all sections of the population seem to be aware of such a split (even if its cosmetic). In my personal discussions with businessmen, beauracrats, students, journalists, village farmers, unemployed men, old men at gahwas or sitting on street corners in villages, almost all of them have told me of how they think the PM is against change, while the King and CP are pushing change (and thus relatively tolerable). Even Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja publicly spoke of this difference after coming out of jail.
I know that there are those who believe the "PM and the King are different faces for the same person" (yes I read the article that went around the montadayats) but from my limited interactions, that doesn't seem to have widespread support.
And one more thing. The video you've linked to is not of an ad-hoc demonstration on Dec 17th. I believe it's actually a video of the protest on Dec 21 demanding Al-Khawaja's release. I wrote about it here. But yes, "tana7a ya khalifa" and similar slogans were very common throughout the Al-Khawaja affair. There were times when some of the younger protesters would replace "khalifa" with "al-khalifa", but the leaders quick to shut them up on that. So yes, there certainly is some frustration against Al-Khalifa as a whole also.
When was that last time you lived in Bahrain. Not visited, but lived. Calling the King and the CP "clowns" is fairly harsh when it has been them who are pushing the reforms. Perhaps the cold socialist air of Sweden has impaired your rational thoughts?
It's not the (socialist cold air) that you call it that has changed me, it's because I live in a real Democracy where I can speak out freely. And if you compare the new constitution with the constitution from 1973 you will notice that the King has absolute rule over the country. and you call him a reformist?
Bugsy, just wanted to let you know that I did read your question (about the "clowns") and that I'm planning to answer in a separate post sometime later this week. But keep discussing here in the meanwhile.
You are right at this point the King DOES have a good grip and THANK GOD he does or the asswipe Islamo FASCISTS "CLOWNS" would be running the show.. Or is that what you desire from you safe abode in Sweden? Do you want a Bahrain where you can't put up a Christmas tree?? Do you want the short Thobe wearing goons beating you to prayer? That is not the Bahrain I want...
You never did answer the REAL question asked to you.. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE YOU LIVED IN BAHRAIN? If you don't like the politics in Bahrain now, toss your Passport from Sweden, grab or get one from Bahrain and move back and work for change. It is EASY to be an ARM CHAIR Quarterback/General/Commentator from afar.
No system of government is perfect. NONE. Bahrain is taking REAL steps towards VAST improvement. Steps NO ONE ELSE in the REGION has the BALLS to do. Calling the King and CP "clowns" is a slap at them when most people know the true clown is the PM. The current Constitution has its flaws but that doesn't mean it can't be worked on and improved.
I've been here for almost a year and a half, I might agree with you on one point that its better the king has the grip than the Salafis. But the king should have separated religion from state in the beginning of his so called reforms, than these guys would not have been eligible to run for parliament. And you would not be experiencing the problems you have to day. and call me what ever you like at least I dont have to hide my Identity, I dont have to be anonymous like you. and you know as well as I that in Bahrain people dont tolerate others who think differently. and if you dare to speak up in Bahrain you will get your Ass Kicked as Khwaja did.
What makes you think I am a Bahraini?? I am not.I do have a love that runs deep for the Island and its people and have seen MANY things go on in Bahrain and the region since before you where born. So for me to post a name would be moot.
Your point about banning the Religious WHACK Jobs from running/holding office has merit but is not practicle in the global ideal. Bahrain MUST (and will) solve these issues on its own. I urge you to GET active in Bahrain for change. Go back and VOTE these clowns OUT. Talk to your friends and neighbors about the NOTHING these guys have done. Until more people like you raise your voice to these quacks the situation will remanin stale.
The King and the CP I feel have a vision for your country beyond that off the assclown PM. HE did have literal run of the show for years. NOT ANYMORE. After all who Pardoned who? What was the effect of the Kings Pardon? It was a public slap in the face to his Uncle the PM. The PM will have a much harder time in the future squashing discent if at every turn someone above him is going to overide it. Old habits die hard sometimes but have a bit of faith in the new guard. You have more in common with them than you might know.
Going back to Bahrain will not change anything and the reason why I left was because I was sick and tired of living there and I wanted to make a change in my life. I'm going to tell you that there are plenty of people like me in Bahrain who have the same thoughts and Ideas. But they know that they can’t express them selves, because as I said that people their don’t tolerate people who are different. And that’s why I left....