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.
Campaigning has been subdued, even if the streets of the capital are festooned with election posters.
A rally organised by Adel al-Dhawadi, a candidate for the Islamic Forum party, outside Manama Wednesday attracted just a few dozen supporters.
“Everyone is free to participate in elections or to boycott them. But it is better to participate and get involved in change,” said Salah Massameha, a retired academic who attended the gathering.
Candidates from organised movements will compete with independent hopefuls after the Shiite Al-Wefaq Association and other opposition groups announced a boycott.