Bahraini NGOs to monitor parliament by-elections

August 2, 2011

Bahraini non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be allowed to monitor the parliamentary by-elections to be held next month, the justice minister has said.

“We are keen on the participation of the civil societies in monitoring the elections and helping ensure their success,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa. “Our NGOs have been given this opportunity since elections were held in Bahrain,” he said.

More than 110,000 Bahrainis will on September 24 elect 18 new lawmakers to replace the former MPs who represented Al Wefaq society after they resigned in February to protest against the way the authorities handled the evacuation of protesters from the epicentre of demonstrations in Manama.

“The by-elections will proceed based on the regulations that governed the elections in October,” Shaikh Khalid said.

“Voters in the four governorates where the elections will be held have one week to check their names and addresses. They can check the lists at the constituencies or online or through the hotline, and we encourage them to do so” the minister said as he toured the lead centres in the four governorates where the voting will take place. Voters will cast ballots for six new lawmakers in the Capital Governorate, one in the Muharraq Governorate, seven in the Northern Governorate and four in the Central Governorate.

The ministry is tasked with ensuring the success of the elections at all levels, and has nothing to do with the competition between the candidates, Shaikh Khalid said. According to the minister, five general polling stations will be set up to allow voters to cast their ballots outside their constituencies.

The opposition in the past had called for their cancellation, but the authorities have insisted on their importance to “ease the voting process.”

“Voters can avoid long queues or avoid going to their designated polling stations by simply casting their ballots in any of the general polling areas,” the authorities said.

Bahrain held its first parliamentary elections after a three-decade constitutional hiatus in 2002, in the absence of the opposition societies calling for more reforms, and resulting in an amalgam of lawmakers.

However, the 40-member lower chamber shifted to a strong religious polarization after the societies reversed their stance and took part in the elections with Al Wefaq winning 17 seats. In 2010, Al Wefaq maintained its leadership, carrying the 18 constituencies in which it fielded candidates, all males.

However, the society pulled out in February and despite a grace period and pleas from the other lawmakers not to quit the lower chamber, the 18 MPs resigned.

Speculation was rife about whether the move would mean dissolving the lower chamber and calling for fresh elections or holding by-elections.

However, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa in May said that he opposed dissolving the parliament and that by-elections would be held to “allow the men and women of Bahrain to elect their representatives” in the constituencies not represented in the lower chamber.

The lawmakers who resigned do not have the right to run in the by-elections, but Al Wefaq can nominate new candidates.



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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