Thousands protest in Bahrain as MPs resign

The demonstrators in Manama called for the fall of the ruling Sunni dynasty.

Manama: Thousands of Bahrainis marched in Manama on Sunday calling for the fall of the ruling Sunni dynasty, as 18 opposition MPs submitted their letter of resignation to protest the killing of demonstrators.

The throng of protesters set out from Pearl Square, which has become the epicentre of anti-government protests that began on February 14, marching onto a major highway.

Demonstrators carrying a large banner that read "The People Want to Topple the Regime" led the marching protesters, who chanted the same refrain.

The large flag-waving crowd wound its way down the highway to the Diplomatic Area, marching past the Kuwaiti and Saudi embassies and the Bahraini central bank.

The crowd stopped in front of the Ministry of Justice, roaring "Down, down Hamad!" -- a reference to the Gulf state`s king.

The demonstrators then marched on past the public prosecution office and the compound where the Foreign Ministry is located.

They then continued down the street, back toward Pearl Square, as employees from banks and other businesses along the route, many of them filming with mobile phones, looked on.

Thousands of demonstrators had marched from Pearl Square to the Foreign Ministry and back on Saturday, after tens of thousands of protesters marched to the square and rallied there the day before.

Meanwhile, lawmakers said 18 MPs from Al-Wefaq Shi’ite opposition bloc officially submitted their letter of resignation on Sunday to protest the deaths of anti-regime demonstrators, seven of whom have been killed by security forces since the protests began.

"We are no longer affiliated with this council, which did not lift a finger in front of these massacres," read the letter signed by the 18 MPs, a copy of which was e-mailed to a news agency.

The 18 MPs of Al-Wefaq, or the Islamic National Accord Association, make up the largest single bloc in the Parliament, and had last week announced they were quitting the Assembly.

"Officially, we submitted the resignation letter today," Khalil al-Marzouk, one of the 18 MPs, said. Two other Al-Wefaq MPs, Ali al-Aswad and Mattar Mattar confirmed the announcement.

Mattar said the head of Parliament would now compile a report on the resignations and submit it to Parliament, which must accept them or reject them.

If Parliament accepts the resignations, after two months "there will be partial elections, just for the constituencies which became empty," said Mattar.

If it does not, "the Parliament continues its work with those numbers, with the 22 (remaining) members."

Mattar added Parliament may not accept the resignations, but that "our view is that the Parliament will lose its legitimacy after we resign."

The letter from the 18 MPs did not mention King Hamad`s reshuffle of the cabinet on Saturday in a bid to placate anti-government protesters, but lawmakers said the changes did not meet their demands for reforms.

Mattar described the move as a "negative indicator for the willingness in the government to go for political reform”.

"The changes in the government were very minor, and didn`t reach the ministers who were responsible for the blood," he said, in reference to the people killed in the protests.

And Aswad said that "one of the most important preconditions (for dialogue)... is that the government needs to resign first -- not to change a few ministers."

Official Bahraini opposition groups, led by Al-Wefaq, have stopped short of demanding outright regime change, instead calling for major reforms including an elected prime minister and the creation of a "real" constitutional monarchy.

Demonstrators on Sunday continued to keep vigil in hundreds of tents in Manama`s Pearl Square, where they have said they will stay until their demands are met.

Bureau Report

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