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The unrest comes roughly 10 years to the day after Bahrainis overwhelmingly approved the National Action Charter, an agenda of political reform introduced by King Hamad that gave Bahrain a parliament for the first time since the 1970s.

However, Shiite political parties, including Wefaq initially, boycotted the political process a year later when the king imposed a constitution that, among other things, watered down the power of parliament’s elected Council of Representativesby bestowing equal legislative authority on the consultative Shura Council, whose members, like those of the powerful Cabinet, are appointed by the king.

Wefaq’s decision to contest the elections in 2006 and again last Octoberannoyedmore hard-line Shiite elements who favored a full boycott of the political process and, in some cases, street riots. Still, while differing on the means, Bahraini Shiites as well as democracy-minded Sunnis have been united on their goals.

“What they want is a full realization of the democratic promise that was made to them 10 years ago,” said Toby Jones, a Rutgers University professor of Middle East history who lived in Bahrain from 2003 to 2006. “Bahrainis believe that [democracy] was almost given to them and then it was taken away at the last second.”

Abdul-Jalil Khalil, Wefaq’s parliamentary leader, told The Times that “nobody wants to overthrow the king or the government” and that the protests were calling for further reforms and greater freedoms. “This is not Egypt,” he said.

However, many protesters Tuesday chanted for the “fall of the regime.”

Mr. Khalil and Mr. Marzooq met with the king on Saturday as part of a delegation with members from both chambers.

“He said, ‘We started reform prior to anyone in this region, and we have reached a good level of democracy,’” Mr. Marzooq said of the king.

Mr. Marzooq added that the king and other top officials have said they could not institute further reforms without alienating “our neighbors” — a clear reference to Saudi Arabia, he said.

Hundreds of opposition activists were arrested in August and September after an upsurge in street riots from Shiite youths.

Bahrain isn’t a newcomer to all this,” Mr. Jones said. “Bahrainis have been struggling to both find a political voice and to achieve some pretty concrete political objectives. I think the reason it’s significant now is that [the opposition] is trying to capitalize on what they have identified as a regional moment.