Boycott decisions deplored, but by-elections will proceed as planned

August 17, 2011

Bahrain’s justice minister has deplored the boycott announced by some political societies of the parliamentary by-elections next month, but said that the polling would go ahead as scheduled.

“We hoped that everyone would participate, especially that we will spare no effort to enable all Bahrainis to live in a positive atmosphere,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa said. “History will again show the significance of participation. We all remember how some societies boycotted the 2002 elections, but fixed their misjudgement and reversed their stance in 2006. There are many positive factors now following the national dialogue,” he told reporters in Manama.

King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa called for a national dialogue that brought together hundreds of participants from a wide spectrum of the society and formulated a series of recommendations that included more powers for the lower chamber. The authorities say they are working on the implementation of the recommendations, but some political societies said that more was needed.

“Political life in Bahrain will move forward. Each society is free to boycott or participate in the elections and there is no obligation on anyone to take part,” Shaikh Khalid said. “At the same time, we will not tolerate putting pressure on anyone not to cast their ballots and we will deal seriously with anyone who attempts to stall the elections or is implicated in a campaign to terrorise or abuse those who want to be part of the election process,” he said.

According to the minister, 187,080 people are scheduled to cast their ballots on September 24. The second round in case there is no clear winner in any of the 18 constituencies will be on October 1. The first session of the parliament is normally held in October.

Al Wefaq Islamic Society last week said that it would boycott the elections held to choose 18 new makers who will replace the former MPs who represented Al Wefaq in the first months of the 2010-2014 lower chamber before resigning in late February to protest against the way the authorities dealt with demonstrators.

The society said that it wanted to re-draw the constituencies and to give more power to the elected lower chamber of the bicameral parliament.

Earlier, the National Democratic Action Society “Waad”, a liberal society, said that it would not take part in the elections and called for a new concept that includes a re-drawing of the constituencies. The society whose leader Ebrahim Shareef is being detained on security-related charges said that the political climate should be improved by releasing prisoners and reinstated sacked employees.

The Progressive Menbar, a liberal society with leftist tendencies, said that it too would boycott the by-elections, citing the need for more reforms.
Two Sunni religious societies initially said that they would not field candidates as they wanted to focus on improving their status among their supporters and other potential voters.

Al Asala and the Islamic Menbar suffered heavy losses in October during the quadrennial legislative elections, allowing more independent candidates to carry constituencies, and preferred to use time to re-shape their future.
However, both societies said that they would support candidates who would allegedly contribute to forming a richer lower chamber.

But a participation of the two societies and a new partnership between them should not be ruled out, sources said.



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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