Bahrain’s Islamist alliance hopes to win more seats in lower chamber

June 14, 2010

Bahrain’s two leading Sunni Islamist societies have pledged to unite their forces again to secure seats in the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament.

The alliance decision, announced by the chairmen of Al Asala, the flagship of the Salafis in Bahrain, and the Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, puts an end to weeks of speculations that disagreements were fracturing the partnership forged in 2006 just before the second legislative elections following a three-decade hiatus.

Through their alliance four years ago, the two political and religious societies secured 15 seats in the 40-member lower chamber. Now, they said that they were aiming to reinforce their presence through the new partnership that would build on past experience.

“The leading figures in both societies got together and agreed on reinforcing their partnership and coordination for the sake of unity and common interests,” Ghanem Al Buainain, MP for Al Asala, and Abdul Lateef Al Shaikh, representing Al Menbar, said in a joint communiqué. “We have now agreed on the general guidelines and principles and will focus our efforts in the coming days on the finer details on the constituencies and the names of the candidates.”

Bahrain has 40 constituencies with the winner getting the seat in the lower chamber.

Under their 2006 accord, the two societies agreed on not fielding candidates in the same constituencies and on providing full support to each other through their adherents and campaigns.

“We will select the most competent candidates when we go through the nominations to ensure there is direct and fruitful interaction with the voters. We want our candidates to fulfill the aspirations of our people and to excel in their work as they represent the people,” the two societies said, but without revealing names of their possible candidates or the constituencies in which they are likely to field them.

Several reports last month said that the alliance between the two Sunni powerhouses was crumbling and that each would field its own candidates to win more seats. Al Asala has eight MPs and Al Menbar has seven, trailing Al Wefaq, the leading Shiite bloc with 17 lawmakers.

The domination by the three religious societies of the parliament has often resulted in sectarian standoffs, often fuelled by partisan media, and in a lackluster performance of the parliament throughout its four-year term 2006-2010.

Liberals and the powerful business community said that they wanted to secure seats in the lower chamber to serve the interests and not of sects.

Women have also repeatedly said that they were keen on entering the parliament, but were often denied the possibility by the uncompromising opposition of the leading political societies. Currently, only one woman, Lateefa Al Gaood, has a seat in the lower chamber. Ten women sit in the upper chamber, representing 25 per cent of the total number.



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About the author

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

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