Women’s chances dwindling in Bahrain’s elections

September 16, 2010

Women’s chances to win seats in Bahrain’s parliamentary elections next month have been dealt a new blow after Fawzia Zainal withdrew from the race.

“I am sorry that I have to withdraw, but this a case of force majeure and time pressure makes it impossible for me to run,” Fawzia said hours before the elections registration process ended.

A candidate in 2006, Fawzia had to put up an impressive fight to withstand repeated onslaughts from conservatives in her constituency opposed to women being involved in politics. Her campaigning tent was burned down, but she kept on her fight and highlighted her programme at various meetings.

As a well-known media person who worked for years for Bahrain television, she was seen as an inspiration for women seeking their way in a male-dominated society. Her announcement that she would not run in the elections on October 23 could affect women’s morale in their fight to secure seats in the lower chamber.

The low turnout of women to register as candidates in the elections has sparked alarms among women’s rights activists.

Despite assurances that women in Bahrain would this year build on the success of Lateefa Al Gaood, who in 2006 became the first woman in the Gulf to be elected to a parliament, and on the dazzling win by four women in the Kuwaiti elections, only seven women have signed up their names, compared with 121 men on the first four days of the registration process.

The overwhelming domination of conservative religious forces and the inadequacy of preparations by women candidates are often cited as the major reasons for the inability to make the breakthrough.

Male candidates, on the other hand, are moving forward with their candidacies and the launch of the election campaigns on September 20 promises spectacular standoffs in several constituencies.

Muharraq, the traditionally most politicized governorate, but where Islamists have dominated in the last eight years, will, once more, be the major arena for standoffs between liberals, independents, women and two Islamist societies.

The Southern Governorate, at the other end geographically, will also be at the other side of the spectrum with fewer candidates and much calmer competitions. Al Asala, the second largest bloc in the 2006-2010 parliament, will field only one candidate while neither of the other societies represented at the 40-member lower chamber will have a candidate.

In the Capital Governorate, Adel Al Asoomi, an incumbent lawmaker, submitted his paper for re-election on Wednesday evening amid big scenes of jubilation and fanfare by his supporters.

Al Asoomi, pointing to the dozens of men and women who accompanied him to the registration centre, said that he was confident he would be re-elected.






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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