Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Parliamentary elections were held in Bahrain on November 24, 2018, the third since 2011 when mostly Shi'ite protesters took to the streets demanding democracy. The 2018 Executive Elections Committee said the total number of voters was over 365,000.
The elections came at a sensitive time for Manama, with its public finances heavily hit by falling oil prices as Bahrain's dinar hit its lowest level in more than a decade. Meanwhile, the political conflict with the opposition remained as is, with the United Nations and human rights organizations accusing the government of crushing the opposition.
In May 2017, the House of Representatives passed a law barring members of opposition groups that have been disbanded from running in elections. The decision included members of major political opposition societies such as Al-Wefaq and Wa'ad, which were dissolved by the authorities. Al-Wefaq called for a boycott of the 2018 elections.
Within the framework of a comprehensive political isolation project, tens of thousands of votes of the voting bloc have vanished, and the authorities chose who is entitled to stand and who is entitled to vote. The isolation project was based on cancelling out the opposition masses from the entire political process, after they have been banned from expressing themselves through demonstrations, media outlets and newspapers.
Amid the general popular discontent with the parliament and its performance in previous sessions, and the increasing calls not to participate in the elections even from the pro-government masses, the authorities spread messages of threats and intimidation addressing the boycotters, by broadcasting statements saying that boycotters of the elections would be punished and their housing requests would be delayed, as stated by former Parliament Speaker Ahmad Al-Mullah, or by spreading rumors of punishment and denial of services via social media.
The Ministry of the Interior also threatened to monitor any news or messages calling for non-participation in the parliamentary elections and referral of those involved to the Public Prosecution. Indeed, the former Al-Wefaq bloc MP, Ali Al-Ashiri, was arrested for sending a tweet saying that he and his family would not participate in the elections.
However, the Progressive Tribune Society announced its decision to participate in the 2018 elections and presented its list entitled "Progress", two of whom won, the former Secretary-General of the Society, Abdulnabi Salman, and the Deputy Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Falah Al-Sayed Hashim.
The authorities prevented four major parties from attending, participating or representing at a major level in the elections for various reasons. They also disbanded the largest two opposition factions, Al-Wefaq and Wa'ad, due to their refusal to participate in the 2014 elections. They pressured their Islamist supporters, Al-Menbar Islamic Society (Muslim Brotherhood) and Islamic Al-Asala Society (Salafist) to reduce their presence in the political scene as one of the necessities of Bahrain's alliance with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
The Ministry of Justice banned the former head of the municipal council, Youssef Al-Bouri and activist Nader Abdel-Imam from running in the elections on the grounds of their former membership in Al-Wefaq, while barring Ibrahim Bahar and Mohammad Hassan Al-Aradi from running on the pretext of their former Wa'ad membership. Al-Aradi had established a national list of 10 candidates, none of whom won.
By the end of the first round of elections on November 24, 2018, Al-Wefaq said that the participation rate did not exceed 30%, while the authorities announced that it went over 67%.
In the first round, 9 out of 40 candidates won, who are as follows: Adel Al-Assoumi, Issa Al-Kooheji, Hisham Al-Ashiri, Fatima Al-Qatari, Abdul Nabi Salman, Ahmed Al Ansari, Fawzia Zainal, Mohammed Al-Sisi and Issa Al-Dosari. While 31 constituencies underwent a second round.
Observers attributed the high return rate to the absence of a popular candidate, which was already explained by the number of votes published in the official press, revealing that Fawzia Zainal, for example, had garnered 3,058 votes, compared to 8,413 votes for Al-Wefaq MP Hassan Sultan in 2010, and that was one of the best cases of the candidates who won.
The official direction towards the coronation of Fawzia Zainal as head of the new parliament was obvious, after her direct announcement stating that she intends to run for speaker of parliament and that she has the support of the MPs. The military orders were given to vote for her before the winning MPs were directed to vote her as speaker. Adel Al-Assoumi, who also coveted the position, confirmed this when he revealed that MPs received "directions from outside the parliament to vote for one of the candidates".