Independents win 11 seats in first round of Bahrain's election

Bahraini women prepare to cast their votes during Saturday's parliamentary elections. [AZIZ ALI/Al-Shorfa]

Bahraini women prepare to cast their votes during Saturday's parliamentary elections. [AZIZ ALI/Al-Shorfa]

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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.

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    يونس فيصل

    2010-11-6

    The elections that took place in Bahrain are forged and not real. I think that many parties have interfered to affect the results of the elections, to vote for certain parties at the expense of others. In fact, I believe that there has been forgery in these elections, because there is a plan in the country to change it and to change the identity of its citizens. Some spiteful parties are behind this conspiracy, and they have exerted pressure on naturalized Bahrainis and military men to cast their votes for the benefit of certain parties. I believe that the government and the electoral committees tried hard to prevent voter fraud but it unfortunately happened because of the small number of electoral control committees, and this gave a chance to these parties to falsify the results.

  • غسان احمد

    2010-11-6

    All the elections in our Arab countries are suspect and defective. This is not pessimism or prejudice against the Arab democracies, but I think that it is shameful to describe them as democracies, because they are nothing but dictatorships, given the suppression and tyranny of the Arab regimes against the Arab people. They curtail and confiscate freedoms and silence all the opposing voices. Anyway, I believe that the elections in all the Arab countries are unfair, and we cannot imagine the extent of manipulation of the results of these elections. In Bahrain in particular, the elections are not fair, because the results are not convincing. We are not speaking about the inflammatory facts regarding the division of the Bahraini people into ranks and sects depending on what group they belong to. Anyway, the elections in Bahrain were manipulated for the benefit of certain parties that I prefer not to mention here. All this game-playing will not benefit Bahrain, and the future of the country will be murky and confused if this fraud continues in all Bahraini elections. We will never remain silent regarding the confiscation of the rights of the electors, and the Bahraini government has to treat the people more respectfully and respect the will of the Bahraini voters.

  • راشد

    2010-11-2

    It has become clear that the Shiites in Bahrain are suffering extreme marginalization by the Bahraini government, and that they are overshadowed in the political arena. The reason for that remains unknown, in spite of the fact that Shiites make up the vast majority in Bahrain. The system of the Al Khalifa has been able to marginalize Shiites by various means, and they have fought the Shiites directly and indirectly. Their arrests and continuous raids on Bahrain's Shiites have become insupportable. What is the purpose behind this war? Does th Al Khalifa want to eliminate all Shiites? Is this the solution for the salvation of Bahrain? Do the Shiites of Bahrain represent a real danger to Bahrain or to the regime of the Al Khalifa? Do the Shiites want to take control of Bahrain?? We want to know the secret behind this war on these people. If the Al Khalifa and their administration have any evidence against them, let them publish it and expose the Shiites, if they are guilty. Arresting innocent Bahraini citizens without reason, or withdrawing their citizenship on flimsy grounds, can only be described as pointless actions that do not convince the public masses, who are always stronger than the traitorous rulers. The withdrawal of Bahraini citizenship from the Shiite cleric Hussein Nejati was only a provocation against the feelings of thousands of his supporters. This man and all his family were born in Bahrain, except his grandfather, who was born in Iran; so is this a good enough reason? Is this fair?? The United States, which you call “infidel,” grants citizenship to anyone who spends five years there. And you genuine Arab Muslims withdraw his nationality from someone who was born in Bahrain, along with all his family, just because his grandfather has Iranian origins? Is this acceptable and reasonable? Therefore, my brothers, I say out loud that the situation of the Shiites in Bahrain is dreadful, and even with the recent developments and the allegedly fair elections, they will not be able to change anything, even if they were parliament members, because the regime of Al-Khalifa governs the country with an iron fist.

  • فيصل عبدالله

    2010-11-2

    Dear brothers, Shiites of Bahrain, stop grumbling and complaining about your usurped rights, because the democratic system of Bahrain is one of the best regimes in the region. They have worked hard lately to give the people freedom of expression and to open the door for people of all sects to be nominated to run in the election. Bahrain is among the few Arab nations that do not have detention and torture centers. People there are not treated based on their religious, ethnic or tribal affiliation. I humbly say that the system of government in Bahrain is one of the best examples of governance in the region, and Bahraini democracy should be an example for other countries. I, therefore, advise you, dear gentlemen, to stop grumbling and focusing on the fact that you are Shiites, and remember that you are Bahraini citizens first and foremost. I would like to advise you to stay away from Iran, because it will not help you, even if some of you have kinship with them. Focus only on Bahrain, because that is the country where you grew up, and it is the country which has supported you and given you what no state has ever given to its people.

  • هيثم غني

    2010-10-30

    The Shia all over the world suffer from a very dangerous Safawi tide coming from Iran, which deceives the Arab Shia in the Arab countries, in order to win their loyalty and to implement the Iranian agendas. Of course, this is a disaster, and the Arab Shia must wake up and think carefully before it is too late, because Iran will not benefit them. It only tries to change their Arab identity and win their loyalty, and to instigate them to kill the leaders of their countries. Today, Iran is doing the same with the Bahraini Shia. It tries to convince them in every way possible that they are oppressed, and that Iran is working for their benefit. However, I invite the Shia in Bahrain to be more vigilant and to beware of this unconditional loyalty to Iran that has exceeded all proper limits. The Shia have started making hostile statements and even threats against their leadership, giving the impression that the rights of the Shia in Bahrain are violated and that they are oppressed…

  • رياض فاضل

    2010-10-30

    The Shia in Bahrain need to protect the unity of the country and stay away from the Iranian plans and agendas in Bahrain and other Arab countries, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Iran succeeded in these two countries, and it is now trying to do the same in the Gulf States. Hence, the Shia in Bahrain must first remember that they are Bahraini, not Iranian, citizens, and that Bahrain is their country and must have their loyalty. They should rid themselves of false ideas about attempts to destroy them or violation of their rights. These are malicious Iranian thoughts, and we call on them to reject these malicious Iranian allegations, because the interests of the country take precedence over all the sectarian considerations and everything else.

  • جاسم العساف

    2010-10-30

    The former Bahraini parliament was under the control of the king, and it could do nothing. The Shia suffered terribly over the past years, due to the violation of their rights, and because they were deprived of their right to participate in the administration of the country and the other rights, because they had no representatives in authority. However, the Shia in Bahrain today realize that they represent the majority, and that they have the ability to change the destiny of the country. Hence, they formed an opposition movement and decided to change the country and its policies peacefully through the ballot boxes. Indeed, they participated in the parliamentary elections and won the majority of the seats. Hence, I am sure that Bahrain will witness change, and that the Shia will play a key role in this change through the parliament. They will change many things and policies, and the parliament will not remain silent, as was the case in the past.

  • ابو مصلح

    2010-10-27

    Religious governments have proven to be a failure in many Arab and regional countries. If we take Iraq, for example, there are many people who have started thinking about the secular parties, and the victory of the Iraqi List in Iraq is proof of this idea. This in turn has implications for the situation in Bahrain or any other country, where most people take lessons from the experiences of other countries. If the candidates of the elections in Bahrain are secular people, meaning they do not take into account the religious and doctrinal aspects when dealing with people, and do not treat citizens who are from certain religious background as second-class citizens, I am sure that these politicians will succeed in the leadership of Bahrain, where the reality of the people of Bahrain is the same reality as that of other peoples. They are peaceful people who want to enjoy freedom and equality among all communities, and at the same time, they do not wish to be under the rule of a religious government that imposes extremist policies and intervenes in the personal daily life of the Bahraini citizens.

  • كمال صالح

    2010-10-27

    Regardless of whether the majority are Shiites or Sunnis, let’s discuss the root of the problem in Bahrain, which is similar to the problems in Arab countries which do not implement democracy and do not run legislative elections based on transparency and trust. The problem of Bahrain is that it does not have fair elections, so you always see the same Bahraini politicians in the political arena, which gives a bad impression to the citizens and promotes a feeling of injustice, because a certain class of people controls the reins of power in the country. Imagine for a moment that the elections in Bahrain are actually fair elections and that they are held under international and local supervision. You will find that there is a diversity of religious backgrounds in the parliament, as there will be representatives of the Sunnis and Shiites, and this in turn will not give an opportunity to anyone to think that there is a group of people suffering from injustice, marginalization and lack of representation. Add to this the government's equal treatment of all segments of people and the disappearance of discrimination, which in turn gives a good impression to the citizens of Bahrain. To apply this principle, there must be a secular government elected by the people that takes into account the achievement of equality among all spectra of the Bahraini people. Let there be fair elections, and let people vote for whom they choose, whether Shiite, Sunni or any representative. What is important is the will of the people.

  • ام هند

    2010-10-27

    The situation in Bahrain, like the situation in all Arab countries, is controlled by the ruler who controls the reins of power for many years, and when he dies, his successor is his son, and so on down through the ages. In my view, there is no real democracy in Bahrain, and the evidence for that is what we have seen in Bahrain in recent years, where there are sectarian and ethnic tensions. If there were a real parliament that represented the people of Bahrain in all their factions, we would not find a certain group claiming that they are being excluded and kept away from the political scene. Yes, there is a parliament in Bahrain, but I wonder if this parliament dares to hold the King of Bahrain or anyone from the royal family accountable if they make mistakes? The problem, in my opinion, is not in the nature of the monarchy, as there are successful monarchical countries in the world, which have good parliamentary and governmental systems, and the simplest example is Britain, where there is a queen who sits on the throne of the state, and there is a royal family, but at the same time there is a government and a strong parliament backed by an independent judicial system to hold everyone accountable, regardless of whether this person is from the royal family or the public.