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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid