Section one: What are the priority issues being fought over in the elections?
Section two:Societies fight to capture Hamad Town
What are the priority issues being highlighted by candidates?
Hamad Town has been one of the fastest-growing urban areas in recent decades, becoming one of the major population centres of Bahrain.
The four Hamad Town constituencies host a preponderance of working-class families, and so are a good example of an area where the core issues that candidates are seeking to promote can make a real difference to ordinary constituents.
Therefore, it is no surprise to find candidates out in these areas talking about public services, housing provision, public sector wages and prices of basic goods.
The shortage of affordable or government-provided housing for lower income families has been a major issue of concern across all of Bahrain and is one of the issue protesters kept referring to during the 2011 unrest. Unsurprisingly this is the issue almost every candidate refers to within their top election promises.
There are already some massive projects under way to build tens of thousands of homes, so during the next parliamentary period many of these most in need may start to see real results.
Along with housing, we also find the issues of improving public services and infrastructure being raised continually by candidates.
Costs of living
It is a fact that a substantial proportion of Bahraini households struggle to make ends meet, particularly in the face of steady inflation and increases in the costs of basic goods. In an area like Hamad Town with many low income families, measures taken by parliamentary deputies to help reduce expenses and make monthly wages go further can have a substantial impact for the ordinary citizen.
We find many candidates pledging to raise public sector wages. While we don’t doubt the sincerity of those who are making this pledge, it remains to be seen whether in a tough economic climate, with overstretched public sector budgets, such promises can be met.
Several candidates from the business sector have stressed the need to promote economic growth, encourage investment, reduce inflation and support the private sector. In the medium term, serious efforts to address these issues is what is going to make a difference for increasing standards of living, although it can be difficult for candidates to articulate to voters how dealing with such macroeconomic issues can make a tangible difference to their lives.
Unemployment and education
Unemployment and education are also issues we find candidates coming back to again and again. A particular area of concern is that of graduates struggling to find work that matches their qualifications, as well as young people struggling to find the right educational opportunities that will qualify them to succeed in the work place. Therefore it is not surprising to find many candidates linking these two issues.
A related concern is ensuring that jobs are made available based on merit and possession of the right skills, rather than family connections or religious, tribal and sectarian affiliations. The private sector is where many well-educated and highly motivated Bahrainis look to; but for others a public sector role may offer a safe and unchallenging role with associated benefits.
Corruption, good governance and social justice are all issues that candidates keep coming back to, reflecting concerns about wasted, miss-spent or criminally-diverted public funds. Recent anti-corruption initiatives spearheaded by influential figures like the Crown Prince have succeeded in addressing some of the most serious examples like this and bringing corrupt public officials to justice. However, coverage of these cases has also raised public awareness and concerns about the dangers of this for society. Many candidates stress the importance of increased parliamentary oversight of how ministerial budgets are spent and successful candidates will be taking their seats at a time when public servants have to show they can be more transparent and accountable than ever before – or pay the price in the next elections in four years-time!
Societies fight to capture Hamad Town
8th Northern / 9th Northern / 10th Northern / 11th Northern
Hamad Town is a sprawling working-class region of Bahrain that expanded significantly over recent decades. The mixed population and changes to constituency boundaries make election results difficult to predict. People will be looking for deputies who can make credible promises for improving services, housing provision and jobs.
The sizable number of registered candidates and the stiff competition make it a certainty that several of the constituencies in this region will go to a second round.
In the 8th Northern district Adel al-Dhawadi will be hoping that his prominence as the Minbar Society candidate will make him a favourite. However his rivals have been quick to claim that voters are currently favouring independent candidates. Jassim Hijris is an experienced rival, having unsuccessfully contested two previous rounds of elections.
Voters in the 9th district of Hamad Town have a choice between a range of figures. The National Unity Gathering will be hoping that 9th Northern becomes one of their parliamentary seats, but they will have to fight off a string of rival independent figures, such as Abdulhamid al-Najjar and Yousif Zainal, who both have a proven support base.
In the 10th Northern district, boundary changes have pitted two Sunni Islamist sitting MPs against each other; Khalid al-Maloud from Al-Asalah will be against Mohammed al-Ammadi. There was clearly a desire to avoid these two heavyweights going head-to-head; either through a Minbar-Asalah electoral alliance; or through one of these figures changing his address following the boundary changes. However, their failure to avoid a confrontation will make this constituency a flashpoint in the contest between Sunni Islamist groupings.
Much of the coverage is likely to be about the battle between these two figures. However, the National Unity Gathering’s Sima al-Lengawi has already been an active contender and she will be hoping to at leats make the second round. Some analysts predict that independents are in with a chance due to widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of established political societies in previous parliaments.
The Hamad Town constituencies have relatively high numbers of registered voters and 11th Northern is demographically the second largest constituency in Bahrain in terms of registered voters (12,341 voters).
In this southern end of Hamad Town with a diverse demographic, the incumbent 11th Northern MP, Mohammed Buqais – who won his seat from Al-Wefaq in the 2011 by-election – is facing-off against several independent figures.
8th – 11th Northern Governorates – Hamad Town
(Hamad Town 1-8 roundabout left)
Registered voters: 8,521
Adel Sharidah Yousif al-Dhawadi – Minbar
Al-Dhawadi noted an accumulated 25 years of political experience. He is a political advisor for Al-Minbar Society. He says the boundary changes encouraged him to participate, believing this would increase his chances.
Isa Ahmed Mustafa Turki
Al-Turki told Al-Watan newspaper that the high number of candidates in the 2014 elections was an indication of the “climate of democracy in Bahrain based on respect for individual freedoms along with the increasing momentum of political progress”. He criticized the failure of political societies for failing to agree on unified lists, saying that this was “evidence that their approach was based on blind loyalty, not on competence or skills”.
Jassim Mohammed Yousif Hijris
Hijris will be competing for the third time and said that he would be focusing on public services. He said that he wanted to combat unemployment, particularly amongst new graduates. “This constituency cannot be considered the property of any particular grouping whatever certain deluded people may believe. This constituency remains open to competition, particularly after the border changes;” Hijris told Al-Ayam.
Bader Hamad Ali al-Dossary
*Maryam Jamil Mahdi al-Mahrous
(Hamad Town 3-12 roundabout right)
Registered voters: 12,315
Ahmed Ali Arad – NUG
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain Ahmed al-Najjar
Al-Najjar said he had received offers from several political societies to participate on their lists, but declined, “fearing that this would diminish my chances”. Abdulhamid al-Najjar has centred his campaign around the theme of fighting “moral corruption”.
Yousif Zainulabidin Mohammed Zainal
Zainal, an MP in the 2002 Parliament, emphasized his commitment to supporting the King’s reform programme. He said that his relationship with local constituents remained strong.
Shaikh Mohammed Baqer Yousif Ahmed
Yousif is a local preacher, standing as an independent.
Ahmed Khalil Ahmed al-Qahiri
Al-Qahiri is a prominent lawyer, standing as an independent.
Hassan Mohammed Tayyeb al-Alawi
Al-Alawi is a local cleric.
Ahmed Yousif Mohammed Hussain
Abdullah Tarrar Sultan Ali
Mahmoud Abdulrahman Abdullah Ahmed
(Hamad Town 1-8 roundabout right)
Registered voters: 10,552
Khalid Jassim Ali al-Maloud – Asalah incumbent
Khalid gained his seat in 2011 when the sitting Al-Wefaq MP walked out of Parliament. In the 2011 by-election Al-Asalah member, Al-Maloud narrowly won in the second round against Abdulhamid al-Najjar, who is now contesting in the 9th Northern District.
Mohammed Ismail Abbas Ahmed al-Ammadi – Minbar Incumbent
Al-Ammadi, a leading figure in the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Al-Minbar al-Islami has said that his society’s campaign will focus on how public funds are spent.
Al-Ammadi stressed that Al-Minbar had a unified campaign which would focus on the economy, infrastructure and improving standards of living. He stressed that in his own constituency he wanted to address the issue of service provision, particularly improving access to local health centres and power supply.
*Sima Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed al-Lengawi – NUG
Al-Lengawi, a member of the National Unity Gathering, noted that 10th Southern district would be one to watch particularly with candidates from three competing societies associated with the Al-Fateh Coalition.
Al-Lengawi has said that she wants to focus on economic issues, particularly revitalizing the economy and promoting Bahrain abroad. However, she also cited the youth, housing and services as key issues.
Al-Lengawi: “No-one can today complain that the Parliament is weak. The Parliament is elected and those who select the representatives in this Parliament are the people. Therefore, the weakness or strength of this Parliament is based on the choices of the electorate for the most suitable candidate”.
Saad Sultan Ali Surrur
Saad: “Democracy is the agent of progress and civilization for peoples and nations… Parliamentary participation is a legal and moral responsibility from the deputy on behalf of the electorate”.
Sayed Abdulqadir Mohammed Muhiuddin Abduljalil
Mohammed said that he wanted to improve the quality of life of citizens through increasing wages in both the public and private sector. He told Al-Ayam newspaper: “One of the top priorities of my election campaign is eliminating unemployment through new mechanisms” enabling Bahrainis to improve their levels of skills and qualifications.
Hashim Ali Mohammed Rabeah
Rabeah campaign slogan: “Hand in hand towards a better future – oh my country”
Khalid Saad Isa Ibrahim al-Zubari
(Dar Kulayb, Hamad Town 13-22 roundabouts)
Registered voters: 12,341
Mohammed Salim Jassim Buqais – Incumbent
Cleric Bu-Qays gained his seat in 2011 when the sitting Al-Wefaq MP walked out of Parliament.
Jaffar Abdullah Medan al-Aswad al-Hamiri
Al-Hamiri wants to focus on “education, housing, pensioners and women”. This his second attempt to win a seat. Jaffar has reported being physically threatened by an “unnamed group” who demanded that he withdraw from the contest. His house in Dar Kulayb has reportedly been attacked.
Jamal Dawoud Salman Ahmed
Dawoud told Al-Watan: “It was a particular segment of Bahraini society that made it into the previous Parliament. Society must alter its thinking in order to bring in new faces to bring about change”.
Ali Salim Abdullah al-Fadhli
Al-Fadhil, participating for the first time, said that his vision for “content citizens” focused on three areas: “The nation, the citizen and women”. He wanted to prioritize housing, education, increasing wages and the role of women.