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Protest, Sects, and the Potential for Power-Sharing in Bahrain

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>19/10/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
Issue number2
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)161-168
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this short intervention I explore the scope for power‐sharing as a means of resolving conflict between rulers and ruled across Bahrain. Unlike other states in the Middle East where power‐sharing has been posited as a solution to violence and division, conflict in Bahrain is structural, erupting in violence sporadically, yet framed around ways of ensuring the survival of the ruling Al Khalifa family. This, I argue, poses challenges to the application of traditional power‐sharing approaches that have been deployed elsewhere. In spite of this, power‐sharing continues to be viewed by many opposition figures as a viable means through which peace can be realized between the regime and opposition figures. Such moves are seen by many Bahrainis to be a means through which equality and a vibrant form of citizenship can be realized. I examine and reflect on three moments of political possibility in Bahrain: 1973–75, 2000–02, and the 2011 Arab uprisings. I argue that while power‐sharing appears to offer a means through which to address tensions within divided societies, power asymmetries across the state mean that the Al Khalifa face little pressure to adopt this approach, choosing instead to exert sovereign power over social divisions with support from external backers.