Bahrain’s parliament speaker seeks third mandate

August 9, 2010
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Bahrain’s lower chamber speaker said that he would seek a third mandate and that he would run in the parliamentary elections to be held on October 23.

Khalifa Al Dhahrani, speaker of the 2002-2006 and 2006-2010 lower chambers, made the announcement on the same day King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa said that Bahrain’s third parliamentary and municipal elections would be held on October 23.

The speaker, who was member of the 1973 parliament, the country’s first, and of the Shura (consultative) council from 1992 until 2002, attributed his decision to run a third time to “pressure from several lawmakers” and to “requests from constituents.”

“The decision is also motivated by my wish to serve the nation and the people of Bahrain and to work with the government to achieve the higher interests of the nation,” he said in his communiqué announcing his candidacy.

However, Al Dhahrani, who twice ran as an independent candidate, did not mention his intention to remain the speaker of the lower chamber.

Throughout his eight years as speaker, Al Dhahrani had often waded into arguments and standoffs with angry lawmakers that eventually ended in high-profile reconciliations.

However, his worst standoffs were with lawmakers representing Al Wefaq who often charged that he was keener on the interests of the government than on those of the people. Al Dhahrani and his supporters vehemently denied the charges and countered that Al Wefaq was keen on its own agenda, a claim that the society has regularly rejected.

The powerful post of speaker has been coveted by the three political societies represented in the parliament and Al Dhahrani’s delay in announcing his candidacy has fuelled their open ambitions to acquire the most powerful seat.

Al Asala, the flagship of Salafism in Bahrain, has been very close to the top position since its parliament bloc leader was the first deputy to Al Dhahrani and often replaced him when he was out of Bahrain or held by official commitments.

The Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, had the second deputy to Al Dhahrani and he too often chaired passionate debates and heated discussions.

However, Al Wefaq, the largest bloc with 17 of the 40 seats in the lower chamber, entertains the strongest feelings about the high seat, often claiming that the speaker should be one of its representatives.

In 2006, Al Wefaq, fresh with a landslide victory in the elections that its strongest supporters did not anticipate, sought the top position, but an alliance formed by Al Asala, the Islamic Menbar and independent MPs agreed on re-electing Al Dhahrani as the speaker. Al Wefaq members, frustrated by their failure to secure the post, boycotted the first session during which the speaker and his two deputies were elected. The boycott cost Al Wefaq the post of the deputy speaker and prompted angry reactions among some of its supporters who called for more sophistication in dealing with sensitive issues.

         

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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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