News / Middle East

Shi'ites Advance in Bahrain Elections

Bahraini women cast their ballots at a polling station in Manama, 24 October 2010
Bahraini women cast their ballots at a polling station in Manama, 24 October 2010

Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition group has won 18 out of 40 seats in the first round of parliamentary elections.  The results follow accusations of voter irregularities and mounting tension between the country's ruling Suni and Shi'ite majority.

It is a one-seat increase for the Islamic National Accord Association, also known as al-Wifaq, which gained 17 seats in Bahrain's last election in 2006.

The group claims hundreds of its supporters were prevented from voting this year, but the government denies the accusations.  Shi'ites represent 70 percent of Bahrain's population and claim they are treated like second-class citizens.


Before the elections, hundreds of Shi'ite opposition supporters were arrested, including 23 activists who were charged with terrorism and planning to overthrow the government.  Authorities say the arrests were not connected to the election.

But the crackdown drew strong criticism from human-rights organizations that say Bahrain could be regressing to all-out authoritarianism.


Brookings Doha Center Director of Research Shadi Hamid says there is no doubt the country is witnessing a change.

"Bahrain was considered one of the more promising democratic experiments in the region.  It seemed to be making progress on a variety of indicators and people were very impressed with the reform vision of the king.  But just in the last couple of months, what we have seen is almost a complete reversal and I think it has been striking for analysts, including myself, to see how sudden this shift in regime policy has occurred," said Hamid.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who is pro-Western, brought sweeping political reforms to Bahrain after coming into power in 1999.  In addition to creating a new parliament, which has limited policy-making abilities, he released all political prisoners and gave women the right to vote.

At the time, Amnesty International said the reforms represented a "historical period of human rights." But, Hamid says it will be a while before the country receives similar praise.

"We are entering into a new phase in Bahrain's political evolution. And some people would like to think that maybe after these elections things would cool down and the king and the government will return to the path of reform, but I do not think that is likely. You cannot undo the last few months.  You cannot start from scratch again.  Confidence has been lost.  It will take a long time for Bahrain to get over this internal conflict and to move beyond what has happened," said Hamid

Bahrain Transparency Society President  Abdul Alekry says this year's parliamentary elections have underlined Bahrain's internal tensions, especially when compared to the previous elections.

"There was no tension in the atmosphere [during the last elections] and things were easier for everything.  This year, the opposition organizations are being tarnished by the media, which some suppose are pro-government and this in not helpful. The whole process ... the campaign is not as at ease as it was in 2006," says Alekry.

The electoral commission estimates voter turnout was "at least 67 percent".

The second round of the parliamentary elections will be on October 30.  Nine seats will be contested.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid