Bahrain: MB Coalition Wins 7 Seats in First Round of Elections

The Islamic movement gained a great progress in the first round of the Bahraini parliamentary and municipal elections, held last Saturday 25 November, amid an unprecedented fierce competition; the unified slate of the MB- affiliated Al Menbar and the Salafi Asala Society garnered seven seats out of the total 12 candidate slate for the parliament, while three candidates, two from Al Menbar and one from Asala, will face a run-off elections and scheduled early next month; there is a another runoff candidate from the Islamic National Al Menbar Society, Dr. Sami Qombor, who wasn’t included in the alliance slate because Asala society rejected him because there is an Asala candidate in the same constituency who lost the elections.
Also, two of the three Al Menbar candidates, Abdul Rahman Al Hassan and Walid Hugres, won the municipal elections while the third, Tarek Taha, will face a runoff; four (former MPs) out of the Islamic National Al Menbar Society’s eight candidates won the elections: Dr. Salah Ali, the chairman of the Islamic National Al Menbar Society and head of its parliamentary bloc for the fourth constituency in the central governorate, Dr. Ali Ahmed, the vice-chairman of the Islamic National Al Menbar Society for the third constituency of Mahraq governorate, Dr. Abd Al-Latif Al-Sheikh, the bloc’s deputy leader for the eighth constituency in the central governorate, and Sheikh Mohamed Khaled for the sixth constituency in the northern governorate.

Three candidates will face a runoff: Dr. Sami Qombor, sheikh Nasser Al Fadala and sheikh Ibrahim Al-Hady, after garnering highest number of votes, while the former MP, Dr. Saadi Mohamed Abdullah, failed due to the serious election violations that included vote-buying in his constituency, in addition to the huge government support to his rival; four candidates Asala society won: Ghanem Al Bouien, Asala society chairman, Adel Al-Maawda, the second Deputy House Speaker, Abdul Halim Morad and Hamad Al Mohannadi, while Ibrahim Bousandal will face a runoff .
In the same context, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society (Shiites) garnered 16 parliamentary seats and 18 municipal seats; one of their parliamentary candidates is facing a runoff, while four independent candidates won, including Latifa al-Qaoud who won uncontested; despite the alliance between al-Wefaq  and the Left, the National Democratic Action Association (Wa’ed) and the strong support that al-Wefaq offered to the Leftist candidates against the Islamic slate of Al Menbar and Asala, but the Left did not gain any parliamentary seat in the first round and four of them will face runoff; also, the National Unity Bloc (Leftist) won nothing in these elections; the most prominent surprises were the defeat of the member in the slate, the first deputy of the House speaker, Abd Al-Hadi Marhoun, and the two MPs, Abdul Nabi Salman and Youssef Zinal .

Heading the House of Representatives is expecting another race between the outgoing House speaker, Khalifa Al Zhahrani, and Al Wefaq Islamic Society’s chairman, sheikh Ali Salman, in case the opposition doesn’t have a majority.
The elections witnessed a high turnout and had huge participation among women in the voting process; about 259 thousand persons cast their votes yesterday to choose 40 MPs out of 206 candidates, including 17 women, and 165 candidates including 5 women on 5 Municipal council seats; the Shiites participated in the elections after they boycotted them in the 2002 elections; this year’s elections didn’t witness considerable complaints against violations in the election process.
It is worth mentioning that the election law in Bahrain states that any candidate should have a majority of half the votes plus one to win the elections.

Political Change
These elections come within framework of the process of political change initiated in the era of the Bahraini king, Hamad Bin Eissa, in which the country changed from an emirate to a kingdom; also, amendments to the constitution were introduced in 2002 AD which witnessed holding elections that the Shiites boycotted because of the constitutional amendments that divided the parliament into an appointed council that has wide legislative authorities and an elected council that doesn’t have the right to enact legislations; however, the Shiites ran for these elections amid a wide welcome from Bahraini Sunnis because the Shiite participation means ending the causes of sectarian tensions that had a negative impact on the social and political landscape in the country.
The Islamic movement played a big role in those elections, given that most political powers that participated in the elections were under the Islamic umbrella, Sunni or Shiite powers; the most prominent political powers that participated in those elections are:

1- The Islamic National Al Menbar Society (Muslim Brotherhood): it is led by Dr. Salah Ali who confirmed that the comprehensive reform is the main component of the society’s agenda in these elections, especially in the political field; the society’s agenda includes plans for amending some texts, and articles in the constitution and increase of the legislative authorities inside parliament .

In addition to this, the society’s agenda included plans for fighting financial and administrative corruption and returning values to the Bahraini society in addition to a number of social agendas including  pay hikes and women and children files.

2- al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the biggest Shiite formation in the country: it did not participate in 2002 elections; the most prominent of its political demands include activating the parliamentary life and pressing for a political participation for the Shiites in the country; this society is considered an extension of al-Bahrain Ahrar movement which appeared in the political landscape of the country between 1994 and 1999 AD.

3- Islamic Asala Society: it participated in the elections in an alliance with the National Islamic al Menbar; it represents the Salafist movement and is considered the political representative of the Islamic education society; it participated in 2002 elections and managed to garner 6 seats .

4- The Islamic Action Society (Shiite): it represents a movement that was founded at the late 1970s known as “the Shirazi movement” named after the religious cleric, Ayatollah Mohamed Al Sheerazi; it boycotted 2002 elections but it decided to participate in this year’s elections; it didn’t have a separate slate but it offered 3 candidates who contested as independents.
5- The National Democratic Action Society (Wa’d): it is considered the country’s biggest leftist formation which consists of a coalition of former Maoists, socialists and Arab nationalists; the society stems back to the rift that took place in the 1960s in the leftist camp in the Arab world between a pro-Former Soviet Union camp and another one which was pro-China led by Maotsi Tung; Wa’d society leaders backed the Chinese socialist camp; their most prominent issues are worker’s rights.

New Bahraini Landscape

Reading these elections make us recognize some new features in the Bahraini political life:

– The big rise of political awareness among Bahraini citizens; the Bahraini elections witnessed a high turnout, more than 60 % ..
– The increasing popularity of the Islamic movement in the Arab political arena; the Islamic candidates in Bahrain, Shiites or Sunnis, achieved positive results.

– The woman entered the political action, though weak with the success of one out of 17 female candidates, but the only woman that succeeded, Latifa Al Kaoud, won uncontested.

– The Bahraini political authority released the importance of democracy in achieving a political stability, making it not intervening in the election process, something that helped the prominent election event pass peacefully without any considerable violations despite the relative tensions that dominated the country days before holding the elections .

Generally speaking, the legislative and municipal elections that took place in Bahrain yesterday are considered an important political stop in the history of the Bahraini society, and the Gulf societies in general; this is due to the fact that they establish the beginning of a democratic change experience which only Kuwait did before it; the Bahraini society is expecting a stage of fulfilling promise, whether from the candidates regarding their election agendas or from the political authorities regarding going ahead in the political reform process in the country, something that may turn Bahrain into one of the world’s ” democratic paradises “.

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