After the first round of voting in Bahrain's third parliamentary elections on Saturday, the Shia opposition party Wifaq won 18 seats and becomes the most powerful bloc in the next parliamentary session.
Independent candidates won 11 seats, and the Asala Islamic party (Salafi) won two seats. Wifaq won 17 seats during the 2006 elections.
The voter turnout rate was 67%. The elections will resume Saturday (October 30th) in the remaining nine electoral districts, most of which are in Muharraq province.
Abdullah Ali, a voter in Muharraq, said he voted for Issa al-Kooheji, who won a 5th district seat as an independent based upon his belief in al-Kooheji's ability to meet the area's needs.
Ali said that the star of the two Islamic parties, Manbar (Muslim Brotherhood) and Asala has dimmed in Muharraq after they dominated the two previous legislative sessions.
"In 2002 our district was dominated by the Salafi trend represented by Asala Society, but it did not accomplish much for the citizens of our area, which led to the Manbar Society taking the helm, and they didn't accomplish much either," Ali said. "Residents of the 5th district now pin their hopes on independents with the firm belief in their ability in providing the services they yearn for."
Shia constitute about 70% of Bahrain's population of 700,000. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is a Sunni. The lower house of parliament, for which the elections are being held, only has the power to comment on or pass legislation submitted by the cabinet. Members in the upper house of parliament are appointed by the king.
Dr. Jassem Hussein, a Wifaq party member who won a seat in the 7th district in the Northern province, said, "Wifaq is more inclined toward the concept of forming a large bloc to achieve tangible results for the homeland and the citizen," noting, "the complexities of outstanding issues and local concerns cannot be resolved by one individual."
Hussein said the party's effective campaigning enabled all of its candidates to secure wins.
Moussa Assaf, a political and parliamentary affairs researcher, attributed Wifaq's success to several factors.
"The party's decision to pursue voters from all sectarian groups, and the call to elite religious scholars to vote in their favour and issue supportive fatwas to help get their candidate list or ticket elected" were the main reasons, according to Assaf.
Assaf said that the domination of the Shia opposition in the 2010 elections is a clear indication of Bahrain's success in conducting the electoral process with transparency.
Assaf said the Sunni street was more decisive in rejecting the religious trend in parliament, especially since they did not obtain satisfactory results from eight years of representation by Manbar and Asala.
He expects independents to acquire a larger share of parliament should the candidates win the remaining nine seats in the second round of the elections, giving them a total of 20 seats.