Bahrain’s largest non-religious society to take part in elections

January 5, 2010
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Hundreds of women and men listen to NDAS candidate Muneera Fakhro explain her election programme in 2006

The National Democratic Action Society, Bahrain’s largest non-religious society, will contest in the parliamentary elections later this year, its general assembly has decided.

The decision was taken on Saturday evening following weeks of intense debates over the merits of being involved in the polls and amid an unprecedented rift between proponents and opponents of participation.

The society boycotted the 2002 legislative elections, held after three decades of political limbo, to press for more constitutional reforms. However, it fielded candidates in the 2006 elections after the general assembly reversed the boycott decision. None of its candidates won, but four reached the second round and lost by only a few votes.

“We should build on our past action and work on reaching the parliament. Past electoral campaigns have allowed us to rally popular support for the society as we were able to communicate directly with the people. During the 2006 campaign, we have had more than 3,000 people attend our speeches, and we all know that it is difficult to communicate with even half that number in four years. This is a new occasion to reinforce our contacts with them,” Ebrahim Sharif, the society secretary-general, told its members before the vote on whether to boycott or participate in the elections. “What we will do there is defend the rights and interests of the people. The parliament should be the voice of the people.”

However, his deputy Fouad Al Siyadi told the assembly that the society should keep its distance from the elections.

“We want to boycott the elections to be able to send a strong message that we are not happy with the present political situation. We want to stress that a section of the people is not pleased with what is happening,” he said before ten society members, five from each camp, presented arguments for and against poll participation.

In the secret vote that followed, 139 out of 239 people who cast their ballots voted for participation, while 99 wanted a boycott. One vote was dismissed, two watchdogs supervising the vote said. Following the decision by the National Democratic Action Society to enter the elections set for this autumn, only Amal, the Shiite Islamist society, has not divulged its position. The society boycotted the 2006 elections after it complained that the Islamic Scholars Council, Bahrain’s highest non-official Shiite authority, was not neutral.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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