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.
Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of the Al-Wefaq, said that “the turnout was no more than 30 percent and 80 percent of the voters were military and government personnel in the security and public sector”. “The popular will has triumphed for the sake of the homeland,” he said. Commenting on the opposition boycott, Salman said: “What a failure it is for the government to beg for a vote from a people who are marginalised by them.
Khalil AlMarzooq, a member of Al-Wefaq in London, said the opposition did not stand to gain anything from the election. “There’s no justice in Bahrain; there’s no independence of the judiciary. Unless we agree on the system that represents people and make officials accountable and save people and protect their rights, we can’t participate,” AlMarzooq told Al Jazeera. “We participated in 2006 and 2010 with a high turnout with the aim of changing the political system to protect the people’s rights and interests but we couldn’t achieve anything.”
AlMarzooq said Al-Wefaq was open to dialogue but that it had to be serious dialogue. Information Minister, Samira Rajab, stressed that the government would not tolerate “chaos, unrest and foreign meddling” – a reference to Shia Iran.