Manama, Asharq Al Awsat – The 2006 Bahraini elections resulted in success for the Shia Al Wefaq National Islamic Society that won 16 of the 17 seats it contested in the 40-seat lower house of Parliament. The National Democratic Action Society made up of leftists and nationalists, known as Waad, failed to win a single seat. Similarly, women candidates also failed to win any seats they contested for the second time in a row. Female candidate Latifa al Gaoud, however was elected unopposed. For the first time, 11 undecided constituencies have been left for the runoffs that will take place Saturday, 2 December, 2006.
The supreme elections commission declared that the participation rate in the 2006 election stood at 72 percent, indicating a high turnover that included political societies that boycotted the 2002 election.
Next Saturday’s runoff is the prominent feature of the 2006 elections as the contenders of 11 constituencies failed to win the statutory majority of 50-percent-plus-one vote. In the 2002 elections, only two constituencies took part in a runoff.
The Bahraini opposition, Al Wefaq, has achieved an expected landslide despite its four years of waiting following the 2002 boycott. Nevertheless, its victory is still not enough to form a majority to support the opposition, of which Al Wefaq has become the only and chief element. The Bahraini opposition is waiting for the outcome of the runoff to determine whether it will be able to dominate parliament and accordingly, take over the position of Parliament Speaker, though the position of first deputy speaker would certainly be decided in favor of the (Shia) opposition.
Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General and leader of Al Wefaq, told Asharq Al Awsat that in spite of some minor violations that marred the electoral process, “the elections were fair,” adding that voting took place despite confusion at some poll stations and that the “[electoral] process would have certainly been better if the ten public centers were not used.” Sheikh Ali Salman stated that he lost 290 votes due to a mix-up in voting.
Sheikh Salman stated that the speaker’s position is not Al Wefaq’s main concern, confirming that the opposition’s priority is “the lives of Bahraini citizens.” He congratulated the Bahraini people and government on the extensive popular participation, demanding that the government should at the same time deal positively with the issues raised by the forthcoming parliament.
As expected, the domination of Sunni and Shia Islamists will characterize parliament with the victory of 16 Al Wefaq MP’s, four Al Asalah al Islamiya MP’s and four Al Menbar al Islami MP’s, as well as the victory of the independent candidate Sheikh Jassim al Saeedi (Salafist). Moreover, another five Islamist candidates are expected to win Saturday’s runoff, which means two thirds of the seats will go to Islamist MP’s.
The Al Wefaq landslide was marked by the victories of both Sheikh Haider al Satri and Sheikh Hamza al Deeri who both won 90 percent of the votes in the 6th constituency of the Central Governorate and the 6th constituency of Muharraq Governorate, respectively. Meanwhile, Sheikh Ali Salman won 85 percent of the votes for Constituency 1 of the Central Governorate despite competition from Shafeeq Khalaf, one of the most prominent icons and head of the Islamic Association. Furthermore, Al Wefaq dominated the five municipal councils of the country’s five governorates.
Al Asalah maintained its previous successes and won a similar share of seats. Three out of five candidates from Al Asalah renewed their term and a potential fourth seat awaits the Salafist bloc if Ibrahim Bu Sandal is successful in the runoff against Sheikh Salah al Jawdar, another independent Salafist. Sheikh Adel al Mouwda, the outgoing deputy speaker, also known as the leader of Bahrain’s Salafists, won the seat for Constituency 1 of Muharraq, while Ghanim al Buaneen, former MP and head of Al Asalah won the seat for the 8th constituency of the same governorate. Former MP Hamad al Mahandi managed to secure the Constituency 2 of the Southern Governorate.
Al Menbar won four out of eight seats, as its head Dr Ali Ahmad managed to repeat his victory of the last election in the 3rd constituency of the Muharraq governorate. In addition, Dr Abdul Lateef al Sheikh won the seat for the 8th constituency of the Central Governorate, and Dr. Salah Ali, of the 4th constituency of the Central Governorate, has renewed his success after fierce competition with Waad candidate, Dr. Munira Fakhro. Fakhro was the most promising of the seventeen female candidates to be the first woman in parliament. Three candidates from Al Menbar will also participate in the runoff.
The least successful participant of the 2006 elections was the Bahraini left-wing that failed to win a single seat. The head of Waad, Ibrahim Sharif will face independent candidate Abdul Rahman Bumajeed in Saturday’s runoffs.
Only 10 members of parliament were victorious in the elections. Outgoing Deputy Parliament Speaker, Abdul Hadi Marhoon, lost his seat to a candidate from Al Wefaq.