A lack of enthusiasm among Bahrainis for this month’s elections has been blamed for the limited number of citizens who have signed up to become poll monitors. So far just 30 people have put their names forward to work with anti-corruption watchdog the Bahrain Transparency Society – a fifth of the total that signed up to become observers in the 2010 elections. Its president Abdulnabi Al Ekry claims the opposition boycott is to blame for this apparent apathy among Bahrainis, an apathy that could hamstring his society’s ability to properly monitor the polls. “Compared to previous elections, this time we are noticing a drop in the number of monitors because of the boycott calls and also because of restrictions by officials,” he said. “This election is peculiar with its string of volatile accusations and counter-accusations constantly made by groups from all sides.
“Also, we are exhausting the society’s funds to conduct training programmes, because we do not receive any financial support from the government – and because of the restriction on non-governmental organisations receiving foreign funding we are struggling.”
To make matters worse, of the 30 people whose names have been submitted to the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry for approval to work as monitors with the society, seven had their applications rejected because they were deemed to be too politically active, Mr Al Ekry said.
“They were affiliated with different political groups including the opposition, but that does not affect our process as all monitors have to sign a declaration stating they will be neutral and abide by all rules,” he said.