Leading article: No credit to Bahrain or Formula One


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The Independent Online

The Formula One Grand Prix should not be happening in Bahrain this weekend. That is the long and the short of it. Although the security situation is evidently better than it was last season, when the race was first postponed and then cancelled, this is largely a result of the repression exerted by the authorities.

It does not mean there has been any serious accommodation with the opposition, still less that the regime has become any more democratic. Several dozen people have been killed in protests since the start of the year and a leading opposition activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is on hunger strike in prison. Even John Yates, formerly of Scotland Yard, who is currently advising the Bahrain government, has said that the security of the race cannot be guaranteed.

Security, though, is not the prime reason why the Grand Prix should have been cancelled. The more compelling consideration is moral. Bahrain sees the race as a chance to showcase the country's material progress. The continuing protests, however, show that there is a different, and darker, side. Which, in turn, demonstrates that, even now, the authorities do not hold all the cards. The glare of the publicity and the controversy itself give the protesters a chance to make their case to a global audience. They should make the most of it. Last year's cancellation was seen by Bahrain's leaders as a humiliation. This year's Grand Prix has the potential to discredit the kingdom all over again, and Formula One as well.