Section one: Female candidates contest to strengthen their voice in Parliament
Section two: Women feature strongly in Bahrain’s biggest contest ever
Female candidates contest to strengthen their voice in Parliament
In 2002, Bahrain’s parliamentary elections gave rise to the first sitting female MP in the Gulf region, Latifa Gaoud, from the 10th Southern constituency. Latifa continued to represent her constituency until 2014, deciding not to stand in the current elections. However, by 2014 she had been joined by the high-profile MP Sawsan Taqawi as well as Ibtisam Hijres and Sumayah al-Jowder – the latter two who will be standing in the 2014 elections.
Sima al-Lengawi: “Citizens have come to reject religious societies. They recognize the need for change. The coming Parliament is in desperate need of diversity and specialists”.
Sumayah al-Jowder: “I know that my three-year parliamentary experience makes me the best candidate and my continuation is something I am eager for since it means that I would go ahead with whatever has been left pending.”
Lulwah Mutlaq: “I don’t want to compete and then just be another one of the other silent deputies in search of position and financial gain. I want to contribute my energies to serving this nation”.
In the initial phases of the 2014 election process there appeared to be a higher than ever proportion of women preparing to stand, for example, by early October a quarter of those who had signaled their intention to stand in the Capital Governorate were women. However, some of these figures didn’t appear for the registration process – possibly some were deterred by the implications of the district boundary changes – and several of those who did register failed to have their candidacies accepted.
Therefore, when the dust settled after the registration process, there were only 23 female candidates left in the race. However, many of these have good prospects of at least making it to a second round battle. The two incumbent candidates, Ibtisam Hijres and Sumayah al-Jowder, are obviously prominent contestants. Furthermore, several candidates are backed by powerful political societies, Sima al-Lengawi and Jehan Hadi are part of the National Unity Gathering, which itself is part of the Al-Fateh Coalition. Jehan Hadi in particular has been a very visible candidate from the outset and is certainly one of the favourites from among the ten 1st Southern candidates.
Lulwah Mutlaq, a prominent businesswoman is backed by the new Al-Watan Society, a progressive and liberal grouping that has focused on economic growth and creating a highly-skilled workforce. Layla Rajab is part of the Free Nationalist Society.
Alongside Mutlaq, there are many other high-calibre businesswomen and professionals, including at least two senior medical professionals and a well-known journalist, Zainab Abdulamir.
There are fewer female candidates in many of the more traditional areas like Muharraq. However, female candidates are even seeking to make inroads in districts where male Islamist MPs have long held sway. The women’s activist Fawzia Zainal is seen as a tough contender against the Salafist incumbent Abdulrazzaq Hattab in 5th Southern.
Huda Radhi is fighting for a parliamentary seat, while her husband is contesting the municipal elections. Huda said of the two of them that they were “two sides of the same coin… there needs to be understanding, harmony and coordination between the parliamentary deputy and the council member.”
Dr. Wafa Ajoor, a medical consultant for 19 years, stressed her excellent relationships with local constituents, saying she’d “helped most women in Bahrain to give birth”!
In the same constituency as Ajoor, business consultant Rua Haiki has appeared as a dynamic contestant, citing her experience in empowering hundreds of unemployed Bahrainis for entering the workforce. Nawal al-Dosary and Layla Rajab are also fighting it out in the 6th Southern constituency.
Some of these women are trying to make headway in some of the most hotly contested seats, so it is difficult to predict their chances. However, the hard-fought campaigns being waged by many of these 23 candidates ensures that the strong participation of female contestants is one of the big stories of these elections.
Women feature strongly in Bahrain’s biggest contest ever
Districts 7-10 lie to the south of the Capital Governorate. Most of this region was created out of the Central Governorate, which now no longer exists.
The emergence of 14 participants for the 10th Capital constituency has resulted in the highest number of contestants for a single district in Bahrain’s history.
This 10th Capital district is also notable for including three strong female candidates including the sitting MP and prominent businesswoman Lulwah al-Mutlaq
The 10th district is an entirely new creation which is comprised in part from former districts of the Central Governorate. It is a mixture of loyalist and opposition areas, which has given rise to a broad mix of candidates; including the independent incumbent Sumayyah al-Jowder, who formerly represented 1st Central; and both the Al-Watan and Al-Mithaq Societies.
Mixed central areas like this have tended to favour moderate consensus candidates, hence the appearance of middle-ground groupings like Al-Watan and Mithaq contesting this seat and three rival female candidates.
The 7th Capital district is a remaining fragment of the 1st district of the defunct Capital Governorate. The district lies to the south of Manama along the stretch of coast facing the island of Sitra and has a diverse population, making voting predictions difficult.
There are no obvious political heavyweights in this newly created district, which has encouraged a number of new faces to declare their candidacy, along with two well-known media figures, Zainab Abdulamir and Ali al-Arabi. Deputy-head of the National Institution for Human Rights, Dr Ali al-Dirazi, is also a well know and widely-respected figure.
The 9th Capital constituency is another entirely new area, made up of several former districts. Being centred around Sitra and Al-Eker, it also includes opposition areas, and so will be influenced by the boycott. Outspoken MP Osamah al-Tamimi – thrown out of Parliament in mid-2014 as a result of his behaviour towards other MPs – had been due to stand in this constituency However, after successfully registering, his candidacy was later struck down when another candidate pointed out that Al-Tamimi’s address was not in the constituency.
The 8th Capital district in the Sitra region was right at the heart of the 2011 unrest and so the boycott is likely to be strong in this district. This is likely to produce unpredictable results, as the candidates will be relying on the proportion of the electorate who defy the opposition’s attempts to obstruct the voting process.
A symptom of these boycott efforts is the appearance of only three candidates in this district. One of these candidates, the local cleric Shaikh Majid al-Asfour, has already been subject to criminal attacks against his property which shows the risks candidates are taking in areas where militants are pushing for a boycott.
(Jid Ali, Jurdab)
Registered voters: 10,695
*Zainab Abdulamir Khalil Ibrahim
Journalist Zainab Abdulamir has urged greater collaboration between the private and public sectors in order to facilitate job creation for young people. She says youth unemployment will become a substantial problem for the future if more isn’t done to expand opportunities for challenging roles for graduates in the private sector.
Zainab said that there is a desire for change in Bahrain and for “new blood” in the Parliament, which gives greater momentum to candidates representing the youth.
Dr. Abdullah Ahmed Isa Ali al-Dirazi
Deputy head of the National Institution for Human Rights, Al-Dirazi told journalists that there was a need for human rights specialists and experts in law in the Parliament. Al-Dirazi is a well-known figure and his candidacy announcement caused a flurry of interest in the media.
Al-Dirazi made newspaper headlines with his campaign claim that “the right to an appropriate standard of living… is an achievable goal”. He promised to put pressure on the Government to issue a time table for delivering on public demands concerning the housing issue.
Osamah Abdulhamid Ahmed al-Khajah
Al-Khajah has extensively discussed the housing crisis, in the light of 40,000 outstanding applications and continually rising prices of building materials. Al-Khajah said that greater efforts were needed and a revised look at the outstanding regulations concerning housing provision. His campaign uses the slogan “With your vote we’ll build the nation”.
Osamah narrowly missed out on a seat in the 2011 by-election, having defeated Sumayyah al-Jowder in the first round, she beat him in the second, 1725 votes to 1660.
Ali Hassan Yousif al-Arabi
Al-Arabi is a prominent media figure.
Yusuf Mansour Kadhim Abdullah al-Qidoum
Al-Qidoum wants to concentrate on the issue of education, for which he says he has a comprehensive plan.
Khalid Ibrahim Ali Jassim al-Quwwati
Ridha Ahmed Mohammed Hassan Shukrallah
(Nabih Saleh, Sitra, Industrial Area, Marqoban, Mahaza)
Registered voters: 9,372
Dr. Majid Muhsin Mohammed al-Asfour
Al-Asfour: “Everything grinds to a halt if there is no security. Therefore the necessary steps must be taken because we all need security, which is necessary for exercising freedoms”. Al-Asfour, a Shia cleric, will prioritize raising standards of living, public services and housing.
On 20 October, Al-Asfour’s property was attacked and two of his cars were set on fire, apparently attributed to those opposing his candidacy.
Amin Mansour Ahmed Mansour Abdullah
Jaffar Abdullah Abbas Hussain
(Southern Sitra, East Eker)
Registered voters: 9,591
Mohammed Abdullah Abdullah al-Shaikh Jaffar Al Abbas
Al-Shaikh: “The call for a boycott disintegrated and failed to get the expected momentum”. Mohammed had competed in previous elections, but this time he thought his chances were better, particularly with the border changes which he said reduced the potential effect of the boycott.
Al-Shaikh gained 446 votes in the 2010 elections, just over a tenth of the score of his Al-Wefaq rival.
Ibrahim Ali Mohammed Muhsin al-Asfour
Al-Asfour lost to Osamah al-Tamimi on a low turnout in the 2011 by-election. Al-Asfour scored 301 and Al-Tamimi beat him with 481 votes in the first round and Al-Tamimi won again in the second round with 443 votes to 417.
Jawad Abdullah Abdullah Abbas Buhussain
Former MP and local cleric Buhussain says he will prioritize the issue of public services and housing.
Mohammed Mahdi Salman Mahdi al-Ekri
Militants attacked and burned Al-Ekri’s car business on 23 October, causing large amounts of damage. Al-Ekri said that through the social media he had been accused of being a “traitor” for participating in the elections.
Mohammed Jaffar Milad Abbas
(West Eker, Sanad and South Isa Town)
Registered voters: 10,046
*Sumayah Abdulrahman Ali Ibrahim al-Jowder – Incumbent
Al-Jowder gained her seat in 2011 after the Al-Wefaq MP in her constituency walked out of Parliament.
Former MP Al-Jowder told the Gulf Daily News: “What was previously known as one of Al-Wefaq’s fortresses is now open to all and honestly it is better since it would encourage more competition that would lead to the best getting elected”.
“I know that my three-year experience makes me the best candidate and my continuation is something I am eager for since it means that I would go ahead with whatever has been left pending.”
Wajih Baqer Hussain Baqer – Al-Mithaq
Wajih Baqer is a member of Al-Mithaq Society from the loyalist Al-Fateh Coalition. Some pundits have singled Baqer out as a strong candidate.
Baqer’s slogan: “The nation is built on your vote”. He pledged to concentrate on the issues of housing, low incomes, inflation and education.
*Lulwah Mutlaq Rashid Mutlaq – Al-Watan
Lulwah Mutlaq, the Golden Trust president, will stand as an independent, although she is also a founder member of the recently-established Al-Watan political society. “I don’t want to compete and then just be another one of the other silent deputies, in search of position and financial gain. I want to contribute my energies to serving this people,” she told Al-Ayam newspaper. She said that she wanted to focus her attention on issues she specialized in, namely “human and economic development”. @Dr_LMutlaq
Tariq Muhanna al-Tamimi
Brother of the controversial MP Osamah al-Tamimi, Tariq’s candidacy was initially rejected. However, Tariq has been allowed to stand on appeal. Osamah had been accepted for 9th Capital, but was then rejected due to his non-residence in the constituency.
Yassir Abdulrizzaq Abdullah Ali Bukhuwwah
Bukhuwwah: “The boycott is treason against the Bahraini people, because parliamentary representation means representation of the people, not the Government”. @YBokhowa
Mohammed Yousif Ibrahim Salman al-Markh
Lawyer Al-Markh looks to play a role in “restoring national unity and defending citizen’s rights”. He cited the importance of his years of legal experience.
Ali Mohammed Isa Abdullah Ishaqi
Bahrain Handball Federation chairman Ali Ishaqi, 46, said things had changed since he ran for a seat in 2010: “It was harder four years ago with Al Wefaq, but I won 2,600 votes and this shows that I am capable now more than ever of winning my seat,” he said.
“An issue I will take is non-Bahrainis born to Bahraini mothers and their right to choose between nationalities, which needs proper legislation to regulate it.”
*Noura Abdullah Ali Matouq
Ma’touq: “I have studied my chances and I had plans to run for a municipal seat in the now dissolved Central Governorate and have been trained by the Supreme Council for Women over the past two years,” said the Labour Ministry labour disputes superintendent.
Yassir Saeed Hussain Mohammed Salman al-Khayyat
Al-Khayyat: “The recent constituency changes were to everyone’s benefit. The new constituencies are fairer”. Al-Khayyat has pledged to promote the issue of Bahraini jobs for Bahrainis. He stressed the need for “real growth for creating more work opportunities”.
Nabil Abdullah Ali Mohammed al-Balooshi
Atiyatallah Abdullah Hamad Abdullah Al Sinan
Al Sinan campaign slogan: “Through your vote we can achieve greater things”.
Sayed Adel Ahmed Muhammed Abduljalil
Adel Ahmed is a young teacher standing as an independent candidate. He said his campaign slogan was “the time for change has come”, saying that such “change” could be best implemented by the youth.
Abdulhamid Rashid Mohammed al-Baqishi
Salman Abdulhadi Salman Salim al-Saffar
Khalifa Ahmed Abdullah Sulaibikh