MOSCOW, November 30 (Sputnik) — Islamist party candidates won just three seats in Bahrain’s legislative assembly in the second-round runoff elections held Saturday. Meanwhile, the country’s Shia Muslim majority was urged to boycott the vote, Ria Novosti reports.
Only one candidate from al-Menbar al-Islami, a local affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and two from the Salafi party al-Asala, received seats in the elections. The parties’ relatively poor performance followed a sense of public dissatisfaction with the parties during the 2010-2014 legislative term, Gulf News explained. Analysts have noted that this is the first time since the 2002 constitutional reforms that Islamic parties have suffered such a defeat, RIA Novosti noted.
Last Saturday, only six parliamentary candidates passed the 51 percent threshold necessary to win their mandate, Al-Asala Party leader Abdel Halim Murad among them. Pairs of candidates competed in the runoff elections for each of the remaining 34 seats in the legislative assembly, as well as 21 municipal level seats.
Meanwhile Shia candidates and voters have been encouraged to by the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society to boycott the elections. Al-Wefaq argues that Bahraini officials are unaccountable to the people and unable to protect their rights, and hope to see the establishment of a constitutional monarchy which would replace the al-Khalifa family’s unopposed rule, Euronews explained.
The Bahraini Shi’ite community constitutes roughly 65 to 75 percent of the country’s Muslim population, and have been protesting against the rule of the country’s royal family, which has been accused of favoring Sunnis, since 2011, Reuters said last week.
As a Shia protester boycotting the vote told Euronews: “Of course, I am one of those who is boycotting the show-parliament that we have in the country because no qualified candidates are available. The people entering parliament are threatening and terrorizing the people.”
Bahraini officials have said that 51.5 percent of the country’s 350,000 registered voters have come out to vote, claiming that elections have been a success, with Shi opponents claiming that the real figure was closer to 30 percent, saying the elections were a “sham”.
Al-Wefaq had won 18 seats for the legislative assembly, the Chamber of Deputies, in 2010, but withdrew in 2011 after the government dispersed Shia-led street demonstrations amid the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings. The party and its supporters have been boycotting the elections since. Party spokesperson Khalil al-Marzooq told Al Jazeera earlier this week that, “unless we agree on a system that represents people and makes officials accountable and saves people and protects their rights, we can't participate.”
Elections have been held in Bahrain since 2002, when the country’s citizens (including women) were allowed to vote and to run for office following constitutional reforms which created a bicameral parliament. The 40-person Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of parliament) is popularly elected, while the 40 member Council of Representatives (the upper house) is appointed by the country’s monarch.
The current government will hold its final session today, after which they will resign ahead of a cabinet reshuffle and the creation of a new action plan by the new parliament, which is set to hold its first session December 14.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, and is participating in the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State; it has faced sporadic street clashes between protesters and riot police since 2011.