Bahrain: Legislative Elections without Parties!

PM Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa votes in legislative elections (archive)
PM Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa votes in legislative elections (archive)

2018-10-04 - 3:18 ص

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): In another show act, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa presided the cabinet session to announce the date of the country's fifth legislative elections since the restoration of the Constitution on the onset of the new millennium.

An agreement between Hamad bin Isa and the opposition in 2001 helped restore the constitution to hold the first legislative elections in the following year. Although the main opposition parties boycotted the first elections because the king did not meet the terms of the agreement, they participated in the 2016 elections.

Alongside the main pro-government parties, Al-Menbar and Al-Asalah Islamic Society, the Parliament witnessed in 2006 and 2010 the largest representation of political parties after a wide participation of the main opposition parties, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society and National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad), in the elections.

In the 2006 Parliament, the opposition won 18 seats; Al-Menbar won 7 seats as it was the case with Al-Asalah. The three parties garnered over 80% of the council's seats. Despite its withdrawal from the Parliament after the revolution of February 14, 2011, Al-Wefaq won in the 2010 elections the same number of seats. However, Al-Menbar's number of seats decreased to 3 and that of Al-Asalah to 4, to form together 62.5% of the seats.

Pro-Government Parties

With the boycott of the opposition of the last legislative elections in November 2014 and the increasing pressure on pro-government parties, the percentage of party representation in the House of Representatives fell to only 7.5%, after Al-Menbar, Al-Asalah and Al-Rabitah society won only one seat each.

The fact that Bahrain joined a Gulf coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE to face the international Muslim Brotherhood organization pressured its Bahraini branch (Al-Menbar). The support of the Gulf coalition led Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to oust President Mohamed Morsi in a coup in July 2013, resulting in the fallback of this Bahraini party.

One month before the elections, President of Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Ahmed, announced that he will not run for the 2014 legislative elections. The group's MP Abdel Hamid Al-Mir also made the same announcement. The two MPs explained that their decision came to give some space for other competencies to enter the parliament, but the Brotherhood, in fact, abandoned even the competition in the districts that it had monopolized since 2002, including the district of Ali Ahmed (the third Muharraq).

The Gulf crisis between the Coalition on the one hand and Qatar on the other increased the intensity of the pressure on Al-Menbar, which withdrew from the political arena and from public debates calmly, and only resorted to refuting any accusations that it was linked in membership to the international Muslims Brotherhood organization. It also stood neutral with regards to the conflict with Qatar.

Al-Asalah Society also withdrew from the competition over the seats of the parliament in districts that were completely in its grasp, including the first district in Muharraq, which was monopolized by the prominent Salafist leader Adel Al-Moawada (he was appointed in the Shura Council), and the eighth district in Muharraq, which was won three times by the President of the Society Ghanem Al-Buainain before he was appointed as Minister for Shura and Parliament Affairs.

Therefore, despite the limited powers granted by the King to the House of Representatives under the 2002 Constitution, the authorities pushed even the pro-government parties backwards. It opted, for foreign and domestic considerations, for ending the party-parliamentary experience and replace it with an "independent Parliament" as the last parliament, which was dominated by 37 independent MPs who have no political or partisan experience.

An opposition leader told "Bahrain Mirror" that "the king has not fulfilled his promises to develop the parliamentary experience. He is retreating from the project he had announced (...) Instead of becoming a great monarchy, the authorities opted for a parliament that consists of independent MPs, with no place even for the pro-government parties."

Opposition Parties

The opposition parties; however, had the lion share of the government's targeting. One month after the 2014 parliamentary elections held in November 2014, which were boycotted by Al-Wefaq, Bahraini authorities arrested the senior leader of the country's largest political party, Sheikh Ali Salman, and raised charges against him including "obstructing the political process and inciting hatred against the regime."

A court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman to four years in prison before the authorities dissolved Al-Wefaq Society, accusing it of "targeting the principle of respect for the rule of law and the foundations of citizenship based on coexistence, tolerance, respect for others, providing an environment for terrorism, extremism and violence, as well as the invocation of external interference in national affairs". All of these are false accusations, which the practices of Al-Wefaq contradict.

Almost a year after the dissolution of Al-Wefaq, the authorities dissolved Wa'ad (Secular) Society, the second largest opposing political party. Following these harsh measures against the opposition, the King issued a decree on (June 11, 2018), banning the members of dissolved political associations from running for the House of Representatives, in what seems to be a new attempt to tighten the authorities' grip on the political opposition a few months before the parliamentary elections.

Opposition leader, Ali Al-Aswad, said at the time that the decree aimed at eliminating the opposition, adding that "the targeting is primarily against Wa'ad and Al-Wefaq."

The royal decree thus abolished the idea of full political participation. Opposition parties and their members do not have the right to run for the legislative elections which the king announced to be held on November 24. With the withdrawal of pro-government parties due to the Gulf Coalition's position against Islamists in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, Bahrain is the only country in the world that awaits legislative elections without any parties.


Arabic Version


التعليقات المنشورة لا تعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الموقع

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