Section 1: New boundaries in Bahrain’s capital
Section 2: Tough contests to determine the fate of Manama
New boundaries in Bahrain’s capital ahead of elections
The changes to constituency boundaries announced in late September are already having a massive effect on the course of the Bahrain parliamentary elections set for 22 November. These changes were particularly far-reaching in Bahrain’s Capital.
When these new borders were announced, many figures who had already announced their candidacy promptly pulled out of the contest, realizing that their address – now in a totally different district, or a radically different shaped district – left them unfavourably positioned to contest. Conversely many candidates were encouraged to participate precisely because they believed that these changes gave them favorable chances.
A substantial number of sitting MPs suddenly found themselves thrown together in the same constituency. The best example of this was the new 4th Capital district, where three incumbent MPs – Hassan Eid Bukhamas, Abdulrahman Bumajid and Abdulhakim al-Shamari – found themselves contesting against each other. Al-Shamari succeeded in changing his address to the 5th Capital district, which set him up in opposition with another sitting MP, Jamal Abdullah, who promptly announced that he wouldn’t be standing.
Many MPs have declared that they would not be contesting the 2014 elections – meaning that nearly half of Bahrain’s constituencies do not have a sitting MP contesting the elections. Several deputies seem to have taken the decision not to stand after realizing that the boundary changes would harm their prospects. For example, the MP Khamis al-Rumaihi who found himself standing against the daunting figure, Jassim al-Saeedi in the 8th Southern district.
Many of the most radical changes occurred on the constituencies on the border between the Northern and Capital Governorates. The old 1st Northern constituency had been the most populous district in Bahrain with upwards of 15,000 voters. A result of the constituency changes was that half of this district was swallowed up by the Capital Governorate, divided between the 3rd and 6th Capital districts.
The land area of the Capital Governorate more than doubled in size after absorbing the northern section of the now non-existent Central Governorate. The 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Capital constituencies and half of the 6th Capital constituency had formerly all been included in the Central Governorate.
The net result of all these changes was to make the constituency sizes far more even, meaning that 90% of constituencies are now of an approximately even size.
The opposition has performed well in some areas of central Manama in previous elections. So observers will be watching closely to see whether the boycott is successful and what kind of candidates gain a significant share of the vote in some of these largely-untested new constituencies.
A series of tough contests to determine the fate of Manama
1st Capital is one of the most predominantly loyalist areas within the Capital Governorate, encompassing key financial and diplomatic areas. Adel al-Asoumi is a popular incumbent and will be difficult to displace.
The 2nd Capital constituency includes the traditional market centre of Manama. However, the constituency has expanded quite substantially with the recent electoral border changes.
The incumbent, Ibtisam Hijres took over from an Al-Wefaq candidate in the 2011 by-election, but she is only contesting this area as a result of the boundary changes – she previously represented the 3rd Capital district. Therefore, alternative independent candidates have a strong chance. Former MP Ahmed Qaratah and Faysal Bin-Rajab are cited as strong rivals to Hijres.
The 3rd Capital district is a strange combination of the fashionable Seef District which features several of Manama’s most popular malls; alongside localities like Sanabis and Karbabad, which have been hotbeds of opposition rioting. Incumbent Ali Shamtout won the seat in the 2011 by-election. However, Shamtout won this by-election on a historically low turnout. It is unclear whether his controversial parliamentary antics over the last three years give him an edge over his rivals, particularly give the complicating factor of the boycott.
The boycott has split this community with many criticizing Al-Wefaq’s boycott, which they say risks depriving locals of proper representation. At least one candidate, Mohammed al-Mawali, has reported attacks against his property by opposition militants.
The 4th Capital district will be a tough contest as two incumbent deputies have been thrown together by the constituency boundary changes. MP Hassan Bukhamas both gained his seat in the 2011 by-election following the Al-Wefaq parliamentary walk-out. Bukhamas, whose former constituency represents the core areas of this constituency (Al-Fateh, Juffair, Mina Salman…) may be the best-placed figure to win this battle. However, MP Abdulrahman Bumajid also has a solid support base.
Ibrahim al-Mannai represents Al-Mithaq Society and independent figures included former Municipal Councilor Adnan al-Nuaimi and TV host Ammar al-Banai.
The inclusion of several opposition strongholds makes the 5th Capital district an unpredictable one.
Sitting MP Abdulhakim al-Shamari had been the obvious front-runner in this contest, until a legal complaint from a rival about Al-Shamari’s main address being outside the constituency led to a court decision to remove Al-Shamari from the contest.
In Al-Shamari’s absence the contest includes a range of vigourously-campaigning local personalities, including business figures like Adel Al Safr, head of the US Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain who represents the liberal Al-Watan political society. Medical consultant Wafa Ajoor and pro-youth candidate Hussain Bukhamas have been among the figures working hard to strengthen their profile.
Several areas of the 6th Capital district were incorporated from parts of the Northern Governorate, producing an area where opposition support is prevalent. So it will be interesting to see what proportion of people boycott.
The candidates are predominantly new faces within political circles, with the exception of former MP Ali al-Atish. Abdullah al-Kooheji is a prominent banker whose billboards have been very visible around the town. Ihasn al-Faraj has been vocal in putting his policy ideas forward. With two women candidates, this district is one of Bahrain’s stronger prospects for a new female face in Parliament.
(Manama northeast coast, Diplomatic Area, Houra, Qudaybiya)
Registered voters: 6,317
Adel Abdulrahman Mohammed Ahmed al-Assoumi – Incumbent
Al-Assoumi said that since winning his parliamentary seat in 2006 “I embarked on a well-defined electoral programme for developing Houra and Qudaybiya. I’m now in the process of completing these… I’m one of the deputies who has made most use of constitutional parliamentary tools for achieving the aspirations of citizens”.
Al-Assoumi: “I expect to win by more than 75%. The other names don’t pose any threat to mine.” Seen as a popular and dynamic sitting MP, Al-Asoumi is Head of Bahrain’s National Basketball Association and active in increasing Bahrain’s international sporting profile. Al-Assoumi arrived several hours early for the registration process, in order to ensure that he would be the first person to register in the Capital.
Khalid Yousif Ali Sulaibikh
Sulaibikh commented to Al-Ayam newspaper that his campaign would focus on the housing issue: “This constituency hasn’t seen any progress in housing for 12 years”.
He also has an interest in reducing university fees and providing financial support to students in order to “create a generation of young people who were more aware and better-educated”. Sulaibikh heads a committee for processing housing requests in his local area.
Sulaibikh told Al-Wasat newspaper that he would happily withdraw from the contest if the opposition ended its boycott, saying “the entry of the opposition would reduce the sectarian animosity that is plaguing this country”.
Ibrahim Abdullah Mohammed Hassan Ahmed Janahi
Janahi: “I have entered the 2014 parliamentary elections for one purpose only: To strengthen the position of the citizen”.
Janahi says that his priorities are raising standards of living, support for the retired and housing. He stressed that there were many empty lands in his constituency which could benefit from more housing. In the 2010 municipal elections Janahi lost to a rival candidate by a handful of votes.
Janahi criticized “temporary assistance” provided by some candidates to entice constituents to vote for them.
Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed Ibrahim al-Awadhi
Ahmed Mohammed Nour Sultan Mohammed al-Abbasi
(Central Manama, Burhama, Salehiya, Suwayfiyah)
Registered voters: 8,361
*Ibtisam Abdulrahman Hijres Ahmed – Incumbent
MP Ibtisam Hijres gained her seat in 2011 after the Al-Wefaq MP in her constituency walked out of Parliament. She narrowly beat Hashim al-Alawi in a second round vote on a low turnout (366 votes to 312).
Ahmed Abdulwahid Jassim Hassan Qaratah
Former MP Qaratah said his decision to participate had been a last-minute one, based on pressure from local people. @AhmedQarata
Sayed Hashim Abdulghuffar Mohammed al-Alawi
Al-Alawi narrowly beat Ibtisam Hijres in the first round of the 2011 by-election. He narrowly lost in the second round.
Faisal Hassan Abdulrasoul Bin-Rajab
Bin-Rajab is associated with the Bin-Rajab Maatam, a major Shia institution and the oldest Maatam in Manama.
Faisal Ali Ibrahim Ahmed al-Aradi
Al-Aradi said that as a result of his previous role in the Human Party (hizb al-insan), greater efforts were required by “intelligent figures” to promote unity and reform.
Al-Aradi said that his campaign slogan was “The youth must have a say in building the nation”, and stressed the importance of “taking advantage of the talents of the youth”. His campaign also focuses on “housing, the economy, education and health”.
Ala’uddin Abdali Mohammed Hassan Bu-Ali
Bu-Ali told Al-Watan newspaper of his desire to improve local services, reduce unemployment and improve facilities for young people.
Ahmed Muhsin Qassim Ghalib
Ghalib promises to “find solutions for facilitating the recruitment of unemployed graduates”.
Majid Tahir has withdrawn.
(Sanabis, Karbabad, Seef)
Registered voters: 10,225
Ali Abbas Abdullah Shamtout – Incumbent
Shamtout said that his campaign slogan would be “You failed us!” which he said was directed both at the Government and former MPs. Shamtout said he wanted to concentrate on health services and addressing “the current political situation”. He said he would continue highlighting the sickle cell issue.
Responding to criticism from a rival he said “yes, I’m poor and still live in a house likely to collapse with five of my children”. Shamtout gained his seat in 2011 after the Al-Wefaq MP in his constituency walked out of Parliament.
One media analysis described Shamtout as having been a “trouble-maker” in the previous Parliament and an example of the “severe crisis in the political culture” of the Parliament, commenting that his 2011 win was “a stroke of luck”.
Abbas Abdullah Abdulhussain Siraj
Siraj lost to Ali Shamtout in the 2011 by-election (86 votes to 105 in the first round, 114 votes to 148 votes in the second, in a very low turnout). Siraj represented the pro-constitution Al-Mithaq Society in 2002. Siraj will be standing as an independent, despite earlier reports that he could be associated with Al-Mithaq.
Siraj has been described as a “moderate Muslim who completely avoids any sectarian tendencies”. Commenters say that because of the popularity he enjoys in localities like Sanabis and Karbabad, he is a dangerous rival for Shamtout.
Mohammed Jaffar Abdullah Mohammed al-Mawali
Al-Mawali’s home and car were repeatedly attacked by opposition militants after he declared his intention to participate in the elections. However, Al-Mawali confirmed in an interview with Al-Ayam newspaper that these attacks “will not deter me from competing”. He noted that he had received dozens of calls from locals condemning these incidents. Al-Mawali had initially been touted to compete in the 1st Northern district, although both districts are a central focus of the opposition’s boycott attempts.
Ammar Jaffar Ibrahim Yousif al-Mahari
Al-Mahari said he was encouraged to compete by the calls for a boycott. He said that he expected to face “substantial pressures” after announcing his candidacy. His priorities are infrastructure, employment and housing. Al-Mahari mentioned that he would focus his campaigning efforts on online activity.
Abbas Ali Mohammed Kayid
Kayid said he would work to reduce unemployment and combat “cumbersome” housing regulations. He said he would also “confront the politicized naturalization”.
Adel Hamid Abdulhussain Jaffar
Sayed Hashim Saeed Hassan al-Aradi
(Fateh, Juffair, Ghuraifa, Mina Salman, Umm Hassam, Abu-Ghazzal, Adliya)
Registered voters: 7,014
Abdulrahman Rashid Abdulrahman Khalaf Bumajid– Incumbent
Bu-Majid’s election slogan “Al-Bahrain tasta’ahal” loosely translates as “Bahrain rises to the challenge”. He said that he registered his candidacy on the first day in order to encourage Bahrainis to vote and sign up as candidates. Bumajid, who has held a parliamentary seat since 2006, said he welcomed the prospect of going head-to-head with Bukhamas. However, he admitted that the border changes made things harder for him, noting that his constituency had expanded from 3,500 to 7,000 registered voters.
Hassan Eid Rashid Bukhamas – Incumbent
Deputy Bukhamas has stressed that he will prioritize “housing, infrastructure, unemployment, and recruitment”. He also said that he wanted to promote “clean family tourism, particularly in Jufair”. Bukhamas added that he wanted to crack down on “lewd parties, prostitution and the sale of alcohol”.
Bukhamas has twice won a place in Parliament, first in the 2002 elections and then in the 2011 by-election.
Ibrahim Abdullah Hussain al-Mannai – Mithaq
Al-Mannai is a member of Al-Mithaq al-Amal al-Watani (National Action Charter) Society, which is part of the loyalist Al-Fateh Coalition. Al-Mannai noted that he had achieved 44% of the vote against Bumajid in previous elections.
Al-Mannai formerly served in the Secretariat General of the GCC in Riyadh. He said that his campaign platform focused on “security and stability in Bahrain and developing the performance of state institutions”.
Adnan Hassan Surrour Mubarak Allaq al-Nuaimi
Al-Nuaimi is a former municipal councilor.
Ammar Ahmed Ghuloum al-Banai
Al-Banai said that his priority was raising standards of living for citizens. He talked specifically about increasing public sector wages, “for the sake of achieving social justice”. He said that as an MP he would be dedicated to promoting the priorities of the youth “because the young people for Bahrain are the knights of change and the future of the nation”.
Al-Banai – himself a popular TV presenter and a respected liberal voice – said that he would promote the rights of journalists and the role of the media within the Parliament.
Fadhil Mohammed Hassan al-Badu
Al-Badu wants to “achieve the demands and desires of citizens”.
Faisal Ali Ibrahim Abdullah al-Aynati
Al-Aynati is a prominent lawyer, standing as an independent.
(Bilad al-Qadeem, Zinj, Salmaniya, Segaiya, Mahooz and Abu Asheera)
Registered voters: 7,782
Adel Ahmed Ahmed Al Safr – Al-Watan
Al Safr is the Al Safar Group chairman, associated with the new Al-Watan political society, as well as being the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bahrain.
He has promised to promote the Bahraini economy and encourage investment. Al Safr criticized the “weak” performance of previous parliaments in promoting economic growth.
Al Safr said that housing was at the top of his priorities, particularly for his own locality, Bilad al-Qadeem. He criticized housing programmes that relocated people outside their traditional localities.
Al Safr has also singled out the importance of promoting education and ensuring that qualifications were in line with the needs of the workforce. Al Safr is also reportedly starting a welfare fund for the constituency to “provide healthcare, social assistance and educational support to families and the youth”.
*Dr. Wafa Omran Jassim Ajoor
Ajoor, a medical consultant for 19 years, said she had excellent relationships with local people, having helped “most Bahraini women in giving birth”.
Ajoor called for greater accountability and closer monitoring of the work of government and the spending of public funds.
Hussain Ali Eid Rashid Bukhamas
Bukhamas said his campaign slogan was “Empowering the youth”. He said that the youth were the best hope for Bahrain’s future, but currently constituted the “least influential sector” in Bahrain’s society.
Bukhamas talks about benefiting from the creativity of young people and “freeing the minds of a wide segment of them from extremism and superstition”. Bukhamas wants 2015 to be declared “the year of youth”. @h_bokhammas
Nasir Abdulridha Mohammed Ali al-Qaseer
“The current situation requires change, in terms of increasing standards of living and improving oversight and legislation;” Al-Qaseer told Al-Ayam newspaper.
Qaseer is a prominent advocate for strengthening Bahrain’s sporting achievements. His sporting roles include being treasurer of the Basketball Association.
Kadhim Ali Ibrahim Mohammed Ahmed al-Uwaynati
Al-Uwaynati was soundly defeated by an Al-Wefaq candidate in 2010, gaining just over 200 votes. He lost again to Jamal Abdullah in the 2011 by-election (150 votes versus 390 in the first round, 190 votes to 430 in the second).
Rashad Izzuddin Mohammed Ahmed Umar
Rashad said he wanted to stand because of the “failures” of previous parliaments. He stressed his independent position in comments to Al-Bilad newspaper, saying he would not accept support from any party. Rashad’s legal application against Abdulhakim al-Shamari arguably succeeded in removing the strongest candidate from this 5th Capital contest.
Mamoud Abdullah Ahmed Mohammed al-Hamar
Al-Hamar works for the Bahrain Aluminium company, Alba. He claims that the “previous Parliament failed to achieve anything. Therefore, I will seek to serve citizens”.
*Basimah Saleh Ali Abdullah
Saleh – a housewife – told journalists that “life experience” was more important for candidacy than educational qualifications. She contested the 2010 elections, but only gained 164 votes.
Ibrahim Sadiq Abdullatif Hashim al-Awadhi
(Khamis, Musalla, Tashan, Abu Baham, Adhari, North Sehla, South Sehla)
Registered voters: 10,946
*Fatimah Ibrahim Mohammed Ibrahim al-Akram
Fatimah is focusing her campaign on young people, unemployment and housing. Fatimah tried unsuccessfully to compete for the municipal elections in 2002.
*Dr. Masoumah Hassan Abdulhussain Abdulrahim
Dr. Masoumah – a psychologist – has stressed the importance of promoting the role of women in Parliament and other areas of society. She wants to prioritize opportunities for youth, pensioners and women. @DrMassoma1
Ali Hassan Ahmed Ali al-Atish – Rabitah
Al-Atish is a former MP, associated with the Rabitah Society.
Abdullah Abdulqadir Abdulrahman Abdullah al-Kooheji
Abdullah is a director in an investment bank. His elections platform comes with proposals for promoting the economy, social support for the needy and protection of the environment.
Ihsan Ali Ali Isa al-Faraj
Al-Faraj has criticized the performance of previous deputies, saying he believed he enjoyed sufficient local popularity to win the contest. Al-Faraj said his campaign would focus on services, housing, health and education.
Abdulnabi Mahdi Ali Mahdi