Bahraini voters urged to be wary of sectarian candidates

August 7, 2010

A former Bahraini lawmaker has urged voters to be wary of sectarian candidates, warning that sectarianism had plagued the outgoing parliament.

“We have had a problem with the 2006-2010 parliament because it was split alongside sectarian lines,” Yousuf Al Zainal, said. “The real tragedy is when the representative of the people promotes a sectarian agenda and puts the sect before the nation,” he said in his lecture at a local majlis.

The best remedy to the parliament division and subsequent problems is to elect candidates who put the country first and who do not have sectarian tendencies, said Zainal, a member of the 2002-2006 parliament that marked the revival of constitutional life after a three-decade hiatus.

“We the people must make sure that the successful candidates will not plunge us into crises that would stall the work of the parliament,” said Zainal, now a candidate for the 2010-2014 parliament.

Islamists overwhelmingly dominated the outgoing lower chamber, with 32 MPs belonging to religious societies.

Al Wefaq, the largest bloc made up entirely of Shiite members, had 17 of the 40 seats in the lower chamber, while Al Asala, the flagship of Salafism in Bahrain, had eight and the Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, had seven. Some of the independent figures were also deeply religious.

Their bickering throughout the last four years was often alongside sectarian lines and encompassed local issues as well as international developments.

The business community, which has often complained about the lack of progress in debates and action on economic issues, said that it would support candidates who would work on promoting a business agenda and defend business interests.

Most political societies have announced the names of their candidates for the elections to be held in October or November. However, Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest political formation, has released the names of only nine of its candidates, expected to be between 18 and 24.

Amal, the second largest Shiite society, is the only registered society that has yet to announce whether it would field candidates in the polls.

The society boycotted the 2006 elections amid reports that its members were upset that they were not given winning opportunities in constituencies dominated by Al Wefaq. Both societies have denied the claims. Similar reports about the 2010 elections have surfaced, but Amal has vehemently denied them.

The society is saying that it has ample time to decide on its stance towards participating in the elections and that media allegations that it was seeking explicit support from Al Wefaq were baseless.



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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