Section 1: Militants declare war against Bahrain’s democratic elections
Section 2: Defying the boycott in Bahrain’s northwest constituencies
Militants declare war against Bahrain’s democratic elections
Only a week after the candidates for the Bahrain elections were officially declared, six candidates have already been subject to life-threatening attacks and at least five other candidates have been forced to withdraw from the contest in opposition strongholds.
These attacks now follow a clear pattern; firebombs or explosive devices thrown outside the front of family homes or place of work late at night; causing cars to explode in a blazing inferno and resulting in severe damage to the property; terrorizing those inside or nearby.
Around 24 October three candidates – Ali al-Dirazi, Jaffar al-Asfour and Mohammed al-Ekri – were all subject to such terrifying attacks. In many cases the families of these candidates were sleeping just a couple of metres away from where the vehicles exploded. As well as causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, the clear intention is to terrorize and intimidate and force candidates to withdraw from the 22 November elections.
Although a number of candidates have quietly withdrawn from the contest in the wake of these events, it is to their credit that figures like MP Ali-al-Dirazi and Mohammed al-Ekri have stated that they are remaining in the elections contest. Al-Dirazi told the media that these attacks had made him “even more determined” to continue.
The most noteworthy of a further spate of attacks was an attack on the Jidhafs municipality building, leaving it gutted by fire and causing around a million dollars’ worth of damage.
Many candidates who are standing for election in areas where Al-Wefaq has tended to win seats, have been the subject of intimidation through the social media. “Traitor” is the common slogan thrown at anyone who dares to defy Al-Wefaq’s boycott which enjoys the support of its clerics and Ayatollahs.
There have been widespread incidents of social media attacks. Citizens for Bahrain’s own website was attacked by hackers immediately after publishing information relation to the elections.
We have to conclude that these daily incidents which are growing in ferocity are not the work of a few “misled youths”, but part of a systematic campaign to cause maximum disruption to the democratic elections process.
A founding member of Al-Wefaq – Mirza Ali – caused scandal within his own society when he defied the Ayatollahs and announced that he was standing for election. Only a couple of days later he was forced to backtrack after being subject to a campaign of threats and abuse. Mirza Ali told the media that he had become afraid for the safety of his family.
We know that Al-Wefaq does not publically condone attacks against people and property. However, it is Al-Wefaq’s boycott that is being enforced and policed every time a Molotov is thrown at a candidate’s home or “social media activists” send death threats to the families of those standing for election.
By threatening to throw somebody out of their organization for exercising their democratic right to stand for election, Al-Wefaq are demonstrating very clearly what they think about democracy. The EU and many other nations have condemned Al-Wefaq’s anti-democratic boycott of November’s parliamentary elections.
Al-Wefaq’s decision not to participate in elections was particularly disappointing after – within the framework of the National Dialogue programme – the Bahraini authorities had put forward a five point plan to meet the opposition halfway on many of their demands.
One of the most far-reaching proposals was a radical shake-up of election boundaries which went into effect a month or so before the elections campaigning got under way. These measures directly addressed the opposition’s grievance about unfair constituency sizes and resulted in 90% of constituencies being of approximately equal size.
The opposition rejected this package of reforms out of hand, despite many moderate figures within the opposition suggesting that these measures should be given a chance. The hardliners within Al-Wefaq were clearly determined to pursue a policy of boycott and confrontation.
Extra security is being provided for candidates and for buildings associated with the elections process but we should all be concerned that a campaign of intimidation, terrorism and violence is being organized to coincide with the democratic process this November in Bahrain.
The response of every loyal and nationalist Bahraini should be to come out in large numbers to vote and show their readiness to unite in the face of these threats and acts of terrorism.
Defying the boycott in Bahrain’s northwest constituencies
1st Northern, 2nd Northern, 4th Northern & 5th Northern
These four constituencies have been right at the centre of the post-2011 unrest. So we can expect the boycott to be dominant here. Therefore, it is remarkable that around 26 candidates are defying the boycott in these areas and are contesting the elections.
Diraz – which falls between the 1st and 2nd districts – is the home of Ayatollah Isa Qassim, spiritual leader of Al-Wefaq which is leading the call for a boycott of the parliamentary elections. Candidates will be targeting the proportion of the electorate who dare to come out and defy this boycott. As a result, candidates themselves are coming under severe pressure.
Mirza Ahmad Ali, a founding member of Al-Wefaq, caused controversy when he defied his society’s boycott and registered his candidacy in 1st Northern. Al-Wefaq threatened to throw him out and he withdrew from the contest, citing his fears for the safety of his family.
At least two candidates in 1st Northern – Ali al-Dirazi and Jaffar al-Asfour – have been subject to firebomb attacks by opposition militants during late October causing damage to their homes and vehicles. Registered 2nd Northern candidate, Mahmoud al-Jamri, has also withdrawn his candidacy.
The 4th Northern district was previously the largest electoral district in Bahrain (formerly 1st Northern, with 15,500 registered voters in 2006). However, much of the west of that constituency (the Sehla area) and a portion of the 1st Northern district has been incorporated into the Capital Governorate; leaving behind a constituency with an average number of voters.
The absence of any strong incumbent or prominent political figures has encouraged a flurry of new faces to enter the contest. This areas has also seen a spate of attacks against election-related targets. The municipal building in Jidhafs was burned to the ground in late October causing around a million dollars’ worth of damage.
The villages in the 5th Northern district are also familiar as rioting hotspots, so there is likely to be militant opposition to any kind of participation in elections in this area. However, the absence of Al-Wefaq as an electoral force opens electoral opportunities for new, independent faces.
We can assume that many candidates are working by the logic that in areas where the boycott is likely to strong a candidate can prevail with a relatively small number of votes, which encourages figures who in different circumstances wouldn’t normally have stood a chance.
(Hilla, Meqsha, Karranah, Janusan, Barbar, Diraz)
Registered voters: 10,749
Ali Ahmed Ali Ahmed al-Dirazi – Incumbent
Standing MP Al-Dirazi has expressed his optimism that the new Parliament will be stronger as a result of the large numbers of technocrats competing for seats. In an interview with Al-Ayam he talked about the importance of bringing together a united front to respond to the challenges the country faces. Among his priorities he stressed the issues of housing, improving quality of life and strengthening the private sector.
Al-Dirazi stressed that change could only come through the parliamentary process, and that boycotts in the past had weakened the Bahraini Parliament. Al-Dirazi won his seat in the 2011 by-election, following the Al-Wefaq walk-out.
Al-Dirazi stated that he would continue to contest the elections despite militants attacking his home on 24 October and burning his vehicles. Al-Dirazi said the attack made him “more determined” to continue.
Yassir Ali Abdulaziz Nassif
Nassif: “As one of the young people from 1st Northern constituency who constitute the majority of the constituents, in am particularly concerned with their requirements. So my campaign will particularly focus on the youth”. Nassif also wants to focus on unemployment and housing.
Hussain Mohammed Habib Ali Ismail
Habib stressed his desire to work with “all segments of society to serve the nation and citizens”. His two priority issues are “housing and unemployment, which are of greatest concern to citizens”.
Jaffar Ibrahim Yousif al-Asfour
Three of Al-Asfour’s cars were burned outside his property on 24 October in an attempt to intimidate him and his family and force him to withdraw from the contest.
*Fatimah Abdulmahdi Yousif al-Asfour
Mohammed Mahdi Jassim Shehab
(Markh, Bani Jamra, Diraz)
Registered voters: 6,970
Jalal Kadhim Hassan Kadhim
Jalal has pledged to focus on providing services and improving roads and infrastructure. However, he also told Al-Ayam newspaper that he had a “vision for youth”. “This vision will focus on developing the capabilities of the youth and enabling them to play more of a role in society, investing their talents and energies in building this nation… Through solving the problem of unemployment, many other problems associated with the youth can be addressed.”
Jalal is also part of the “Economic Coalition” constituting a number of candidates in Northern and Capital Governorates. Jalal has reported attacks through the social media from opposition militants accusing him of being a “traitor” for participating in the elections.
Hussain Salman Hussain Salman al-Hamar
Fadhil Jassim Mohammed Jassim al-Dirazi
(Jidhafs, Jablah Habshi, North Sehla, Qadam, Abu-Quwwah)
Registered voters: 9,277
*Huda Mansour Mahmoud Radhi
Huda believes that the economy is the most important issue to focus on for solving the challenges which face Bahrain.
Huda’s husband, Hussain al-Muabbir, is contesting the municipal elections. Huda said of the two of them that they are “two sides of the same coin… there needs to be understanding, harmony and coordination between the parliamentary deputy and the council member.”
Huda has accused another female candidate of stealing her election programme and publishing it in the press “word for word”.
Yousif Ahmed Abdullah and Abdullah Hamad al-Haddad have announced their withdrawal from the contest, without announcing reasons for this.
Hussain Jawad Ahmed Abdulaziz Yousif al-Balagha
Local Shia cleric
Nawaf Mohammed Yousef Mohammed al-Sayed
Ghazi Faisal Hassan Hussain Al Rahmah
Saleh Hassan Ali Ahmed
Mohammed Jassim Ahmed al-Aleywi
(Qadam, Hajar, Abu Saiba, Shakhurah, Muqaba, Diraz, Sar, Markh)
Registered voters: 10,388
Jamil Hassan Salih Hassan al-Rowaei
Jamil said that “fighting sectarianism” was his top priority. He told Al-Watan that despite his close ties with political groupings he wanted to contest as an independent in order to “represent all segments of the Bahraini people equally to guarantee the promotion of national unity”.
Jamil cited his years of service in “those Government departments closest to citizens” and his recent Masters in law as among his attributes in an interview with Al-Watan newspaper. He will prioritize housing, infrastructure, inflation and health insurance.
Isa Yousif Mohammed Taqi Asadallah
Taqi, a prominent banker, has pledged to invest his “years of experience in human capital, in order to enforce measures on banks and companies – particularly foreign-owned – for increasing the proportion of Bahraini employees and making Bahrainis the first and preferred choice for recruitment.” Taqi added in comments to Al-Ayam newspaper that he would prioritize the upgrading of skills in the private sector and the provision of training for young people.
Ali Abdullah Ali Hussain al-Aradi
Al-Aradi is a legal consultant who has stressed to work to increase investment in Bahrain and promote the economy, so as to improve standards of living for Bahrainis. He noted the need to hold companies to account which had failed to deliver in full on public sector projects.
Al-Aradi said that the “previous Parliament failed in its oversight and legislative roles”.
Ahmed Radhi Hassan al-Najjar
Al-Najjar stressed the importance of “well-qualified” candidates, in order to “turn demands into tangible results on the ground”. Al-Najjar has discussed the importance of better coordination between academic qualifications and the requirements of the Bahraini jobs market, to improve employment prospects and best serve the economy.
Jamil Mirza Ali Mohammed al-Mahari
Jamil’s brother Shakir has applied to be a candidate in the municipal elections
Mohammed Mohsin Ali Ahmed
Sadiq Jaffar Mohammed Jumah
Fadhil Abbas Ali al-Shaikh Ahmed al-Harz
Mohammed Khalil Ibrahim Ali
Nabil Ali Mohammed al-Lababidi
*Hannan Abdulaziz Habib Abdullah