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.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
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.