A record number of women have been elected in Bahrain’s elections in what officials say is an historic achievement that has broken the glass ceiling of representation in the country’s parliament. By the election’s second and final round of voting on Sunday, a total of six women were voted in, doubling the number of female legislators in the tiny Gulf kingdom. “The 2018 elections are historic for Bahrain,” Mohammed al-Sayed, spokesperson for Citizens for Bahrain organisation, told Al Arabiya English news channel. “We will certainly have more women in parliament, and this is a source of pride for all Bahrainis as we believe in equality and the important role played by Bahraini women in society and politics,” he continued.
Bahraini authorities announced the results of last week’s parliamentary and local council elections, despite calls by the opposition to boycott and government insistence there was high voter turnout.
Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs, Religious Endowments and Chairman of the National Elections Committee (NEC) Khaled bin Ali Al-Khalifa announced the election results on Monday, the fifth round of elections since constitutional reform in 2002. Al-Khalifa told a news conference that voter turnout reached 70 per cent, which is close to local and international media reports quoting Bahraini officials indicating 67 per cent turnout.
Counting is under way in Bahrain after polls have closed in Saturday’s parliamentary election from which opposition groups were barred in a crackdown on dissent in the Western-allied kingdom. More than 350,000 Bahrainis were eligible to vote, according to Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, adding that there were 54 polling stations across the country. According to Bahraini state television, turnout for the election was 67 percent, the Reuters news agency reported. In advance of the vote, however, activists and members of the banned opposition parties called for a boycott of what they describe as “farce” elections, raising doubts about the credibility of the polls. The government says the elections are democratic
The upcoming parliamentary elections in Bahrain, scheduled for November 24, 2018, are occurring in a repressive political environment that is not conducive to free elections, Human Rights Watch said today. Bahrain’s allies should encourage the Bahraini government to take all the necessary steps to reform laws undermining freedom of expression and assembly and to release detained opposition figures. In the latest instance of the crackdown on peaceful dissent, on November 13, 2018, a former member of parliament, Ali Rashed al-Sheeri, was detained after he tweeted about boycotting the elections. On November 4, the Bahrain High Court of Appeals overturned the previous acquittal of a prominent opposition member, Sheikh Ali Salman, sentencing him to life in prison on charges of spying for Qatar. Salman is the leader of Bahrain’s largest political opposition group, al-Wefaq, which was outlawed in 2016.
Upcoming parliamentary elections in Bahrain have been deprived of any legitimacy by a ban on opposition parties, legislators in the US, UK, Ireland and the European parliament have declared in four separate letters calling on the country to end the repression. Bahrain, a former British colony ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family, is due to hold elections on 24 November for the Council of Representatives of Bahrain’s national assembly, one of the Gulf’s few democratic institutions. Bahrain’s assembly consists of an upper house appointed directly by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called the Shura or consultative council, and an elected council of representatives, the main lawmaking body, each with 40 seats. Nearly 366,000 citizens have been declared eligible to vote. Separately, members of the royal family hold 12 of the 26 posts in the cabinet. The other 14 posts are held by political appointees that are not members of the royal family.
Bahrain’s main opposition group called Tuesday for a boycott of November parliamentary elections after its members were banned from running. The vote follows waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state crushed protests led by its Shiite majority demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. Authorities have imprisoned hundreds of dissidents, stripped many of their nationality and outlawed opposition movements including Al-Wefaq, the main movement representing the kingdom’s Shiite majority.
Bahrain’s Attorney General Dr. Ali Al Buainain announced on Wednesday establishing a committee consisting of a Public Prosecution panel to conduct probes into election processes and suspected crimes. Composed of nine members, the committee will expedite procedures for revealing crimes and violations committed during elections. “The committee is functional with immediate effect and will operate until the electoral process is completed with the election of the MPs and councilors,” he said in a statement.
Bahrain said on Monday it would hold a parliamentary election on Nov. 24, the state news agency BNA reported, the second ballot since 2011 when mostly Shi’ite protesters took to the streets demanding more democracy. The 2018 elections come at a sensitive time for the Gulf state as the public finances have been hit hard by a slump in oil prices, with Bahrain’s dinar plunging to its lowest in more than decade.
On Nov. 29, Bahrain concluded its first full legislative election since the Persian Gulf kingdom’s popular uprising began in February 2011. The main controversy both before and after the vote has turned on the question of participation by the main opposition Shiite bloc al-Wefaq, whose 18 members of parliament resigned en masse from the 40-seat lower house in the early days of the uprising over the state’s deadly response to mass demonstrations. The group has remained on the political sidelines ever since, helping to organize a continuing if steadily weakening protest movement. In the end, al-Wefaq opted to continue its electoral boycott, having secured no meaningful political concessions to offer its increasingly disillusioned constituents as justification for rejoining what remains in any case a largely impotent parliament. Thus loath to return to the status quo ante after nearly four years of bitter struggle, al-Wefaq’s decision to abstain from the 2014 vote was made difficult only by concerted governmental (as well as Western diplomatic) pressure, including the threat of wholesale dissolution stemming from an ongoing court case brought by the Minister of Justice Khalid bin Ali al-Khalifa.
A Bahraini group monitoring the country’s recent election claims some voters were bribed with cash to vote for certain candidates. Bahrain Dialogue Society vice-president Rashid Al Ghayeb called on authorities to investigated allegations it received from several voters relating to both the first and second rounds of voting. He said other alleged violations included election staff using their mobile phones rather than assisting voters, no provisions in some centres for veiled female voters and some candidates continuing to campaign during the 24-hour ban leading up to the election. “In some centres, our monitors saw voters indicating to the candidate they have voted for him,” Al Ghayeb was quoted as saying by Gulf Daily News.
Bahrani troops have attacked people protesting the Al Khalifa regime security forces’ storming of a prominent cleric’s home, amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent. On Tuesday, the regime’s forces used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters gathered on the streets of Diraz and Sadad, denouncing the raid on the house of Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Ahmed Qassem on Saturday. Witnesses said the regime forces took photos of the ID cards of all those present in the house in Diraz, west of the capital Manama.
Bahrainis have voted in legislative elections, the first since 2011 street protests, but the Shia opposition that led the pro-democracy movement did not take part in the vote. The government kept polling centres open for two more hours than planned, until 19:00 GMT, due to the massive voter turnout. The turnout is no more than 30 percent and 80 percent of the voters are military and government personnel in the security and public sector. Sheikh Ali Salman, general secretary of the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society The Gulf state’s electorate of almost 350,000 were called to choose 40 deputies, with most of the 266 candidates being Sunnis. Al-Wefaq, the main opposition group, warned that failure by the kingdom’s rulers to loosen their grip on power could trigger a surge in violence.
Bahraini people will go to the polls for a second time next week as the fate of only six out of forty seats of the country’s parliament has been decided in the legislative election recently held in the Persian Gulf kingdom. Bahrain’s official electoral commission said on Sunday that only six candidates, five Sunnis and one Shia, managed to secure seats at the parliament as a result of the vote, which was held despite widespread opposition on Saturday. “Around 260 candidates will contest the remaining 34 seats on November 29,” Bahrain’s Minister of Justice Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa said. Some 350,000 eligible Bahrainis had been called to choose 40 legislators from among 266 mostly Sunni candidates.
Tiny Gulf monarchy Bahrain holds elections on Saturday but with the opposition boycotting there seems little hope of an end to political deadlock in the key US ally. Bahrain remains divided nearly four years after security forces in the kingdom clamped down on protests led by demonstrators taking their cue from the Arab Spring uprisings. The opposition is demanding a “real” constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling royal family. But the Al-Khalifa dynasty has refused to yield. Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and is one of several Arab states supporting US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, making it a vital Western ally. Turnout on Saturday is likely to be low as the main opposition party has already called for a boycott.
Bahraini authorities have arrested 13 women in a crackdown on activists calling for an anti-regime referendum during the upcoming parliamentary election, activists said on Sunday. Most of the arrests took place last week after the interior ministry accused activists of “preparing an anti-regime referendum on the day of the legislative elections,” one activist told AFP on condition of anonymity. Two of the women were released while the remaining 11 have been kept in custody for a week for questioning, the source said. Several men were also arrested, activists said, adding however that the majority of those held are women. King Hamad set elections for a new 40-seat lower house of parliament for November 22, the first such polls since 2011 Shiite-led protests calling for democratic reforms in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state. Municipal polls will be held simultaneously. Most opposition groups, led by the main Shiite bloc Al-Wefaq, have announced they will boycott the November polls.
The Council of Representatives in Bahrain has decided to exclude three people with dual Bahraini and Saudi citizenship from running for seats on the body in the forthcoming elections. The 40-member council is the lower house of the Bahraini Parliament and the main legislative body. The elections take place on Nov. 22. The body reportedly said recently that the three people who were rejected first had Saudi citizenship and then later acquired their Bahraini citizenship, which disqualifies them from standing as candidates under provisions of the country’s constitution. These provisions apply to all people who have citizenship of other foreign states, it said.
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.
Bahraini and international women’s advocates praised the victory of three women in the special parliamentary elections in the embattled Gulf island nation. The women’s victory brings the number of women now sitting in the 40-seat assembly to four. The special elections were held on September 24 and October 1.
As the government of Bahrain held parliamentary elections Saturday, hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces while trying to make their way to Pearl Square, the site in the capital where the kingdom’s pro-democracy movement got started early this year and was heavily suppressed. In the village of Sanabis, where the protest began, the police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets against hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters, witnesses and human-rights advocates said.
The protest was a main part of the Shiite majority’s response to the election in the Sunni-ruled monarchy, which was boycotted by the mostly Shiite opposition. The aim of the protest was to march to Pearl Square, in Manama, where the government destroyed a 300-foot sculpture topped by a giant pearl in March after forcibly removing the protesters’ tent city.
“Security forces closed all access to Pearl Square today,” Mohammed al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said by telephone. “The square is now like an army base. Thousands of protesters turned out in Sanabis and got attacked badly by the security forces.”
Tensions are mounting in Bahrain ahead of planned parliamentary elections next week, with opposition supporters vowing to hold a mass demonstration in the capital, Manama. Next Saturday’s poll will fill 18 seats abandoned by the main opposition al-Wefaq party, who quit in February over the government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Mattar Mattar, one of the legislators who resigned, says the decision to replace all of the opposition parliamentarians is proof that the nation’s leaders are neglecting the grievances of the people. “They are trying to ignore us, but this plan will not succeed. They are going on the wrong track. Without opening a real dialogue and without going for real political reform it’s difficult to reach stability here,” he said.
Ten by-election candidates in Bahrain have received threats from anonymous election boycotters, according to human rights group here. The Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society said that candidates received threats through emails, text messages and mails demanding them to withdraw from election.
Six opposition societies, including Al Wefaq National Islamic Society have decided to boycott election, while there is also a media campaign ‘0%’ launched recently through social media calling upon people in Bahrain to keep the voting boxes empty by not casting their votes.
Foreigners granted Bahraini citizenship being allowed to vote in elections 10 years after they get nationality was debated at the National Dialogue last night. Participants also discussed the possibility of every Bahraini getting an increase of BD100 to their salaries to improve their standard of living as well as implementing a study on how to improve their income.
In another session, participants stressed the need to further boost Bahrain as an investment hub to strengthen the economy and deal with budget deficit. Participants also raised a suggestion to establish centres dedicated to raising awareness on human rights in Bahrain, said Dialogue spokesman Isa Abdulrahman at a Press conference at the Isa Cultural Centre, Juffair.
“Participants raised many proposals during the sessions, some of which were debated or needed more time to be discussed,” he said. More than 280 delegates took part in the sessions last night.