Section one:  Violent incidents show opposition has no strategy

Section two:  Tribal & family dynamics at play along Bahrain’s west coast

Click on the following links for Citizens for Bahrain’s definitive guide to all 40 constituencies and all 266 candidates: Capital Governorate; Muharraq Governorate; Northern Governorate; Southern Governorate

Successful elections campaign leaves opposition without strategy or purpose

In the weeks leading up to the 22 November Bahrain elections opposition militants have sought to enforce the boycott through a variety of approaches.

Over the space of one week in late October around six candidates had their homes and businesses attacked and their cars firebombed. The Jidhafs municipality building was gutted by fire after an attack, causing around a million dollars’ worth of damage. 

Several of the attackers were arrested and security was tightened up for candidates and centres associated with the elections. With this stepping-up of security, militants mostly confined their activity to throwing Molotovs at campaign posters. Considering that Bahrain’s roads are now packed with forests of thousands of elections billboards and advertising, these youths have been fighting a losing battle and many candidates simply replace their burnt billboards within a few hours.

Further nasty incidents in the last days before the elections, have included a fire bomb on candidate Ammar al-Mahari’s car (3rd Capital) and an arson attack against female candidate Huda Rathi’s campaign tent (4th Northern).

Militants have been sending threatening messages to local shops and businesses, warning them not to open on elections day.

In spite of such incidents, most parts of Bahrain on the eve of elections feel secure and relaxed. Threats of violence may have convinced some of the less-committed candidates to withdraw, but this has still left 266 candidates in the parliamentary race (419, including the municipal candidates), dozens of whom are contesting on the opposition’s doorstep.

In any case, where militants are successful in forcing candidates to withdraw, the only effect is to reduce the choice for voters and to restrict the democratic process. 

This is a bad position to be in for an opposition which claims to want more democracy, particularly given the thuggish tactics that their supporters are resorting to in support of the boycott.

The opposition’s embarrassment is undoubtedly increased by dozens of candidates who are associated with the opposition; who are close to communities in opposition areas; who are articulating many of the grievances of opposition supporters – but who are defying the opposition boycott.

The opposition must be furious that figures like Shia cleric Majid al-Majid are contesting – solidly opposition figures, but who refute the opposition’s stance. Al-Majid told journalists: “We look at participation in elections as a matter of principle. We ideologically believed in this since the first rounds of elections. We participated and we will participate now and in the future, because participation is how nations are built”.

 Many other figures in Al-Majid’s 7th Northern district and neighbouring constituencies fit a similar profile: By their traditions and background they are solidly within the opposition camp, but they are defying the boycott and ridiculing the reasons which the opposition have given for boycotting.

In many other “opposition” constituencies we find young figures like Yassir Nassif who are promoting themselves as “youth” candidates, and are articulating the issues that affect frustrated young people in these areas, such as unemployment, a lack of opportunities for young graduates, poor provision of services and activities for young people and difficulties in obtaining housing for new families.

Very simply, these candidates are campaigning on all the issues that Al-Wefaq Islamic Society claim to care about. They are stealing Al-Wefaq’s reasons to exist and they are stealing Al-Wefaq’s legitimacy as the voice of marginalized Shia communities.

Al-Wefaq’s boycott has placed this society outside the Parliament for four years and has left it without a strategy, or any means of representing the aspirations of its supporters. The Parliament will continue without Al-Wefaq. 

There will be many MPs who speak for the same communities as Al-Wefaq; who highlight the same issues and who share similar affiliations. But the fact is that these MPs will not represent Al-Wefaq and they are there because they opposed Al-Wefaq’s wrong decision to boycott. 

Al-Wefaq now has four years to ponder the fact that they are the principle losers from this decision.

Tribal & family dynamics at play along Bahrain’s west coast

This 3rd Northern district encompasses many of the Sunni/loyalist localities along the north of Bahrain’s west coast, like Budaya, Hamala and Jasra. Incumbent In these intimate and traditional communities, the contest is as much about personal and tribal connections as it is about policies, which makes this a more difficult district to predict. 

Experts note that Hassan Salim al-Dossary as the sitting MP has lost popularity because he was perceived not to have supported local interests in recent housing allotments in the Budaya area, which has resulted in the public mood turning against him. This is also likely to be why two other Dossary’s have come out against him.

Hamad Salim al-Dossary has been campaigning hard through the press and social media. Having been the figure who successfully returned Hassan al-Dossary to Parliament twice by planning his campaign strategy, Hamad deserved following carefully, although it is pointed out as a younger figure that his support base lies primarily in the 25-40 age bracket. All candidates have been competing hard for local attention, with hundreds of promotional billboards going up along the roadsides.

The 6th Northern District of Aali is archaeologically significant as the home of thousands of prehistoric burial mounds. The old village of Ali is predominantly Shia. Some will choose to boycott, but many of the more-established families are likely to come out in support of local Shia candidates. Much of the newer development in Aali has gone to Sunni families, leading to a balance between the communities.

MP Ahmed al-Saati’s announcement that he wouldn’t be standing again in this district came as a surprise and leaves this contest wide open. 

Just two weeks before the elections much of this district has seen less of the conspicuous promotional campaigning that has been obvious in neighbouring districts. In an area where family ties are everything, many candidates will be relying on their local connections. 

The young businesswoman Rua al-Haiki appears to be the candidate pursuing the most systematic, visible and well-funded campaign. Mohammed Al Asfour has been coming out with sophisticated policy proposals, which have been receiving media coverage.

One newspaper analysis went as far as characterizing this contest as a battle between the Shia Asfour and Aali families, predicting that the turnout would “exceed all expectations” because these families would try and bring their supporters out in large numbers. 

The 7th Northern district is a demographically diverse district, ranging from localities with a largely middle-class loyalist population like Janabiya and Hamala; to areas like Dumistan and Al-Qurrayah which are predominantly Shia and contain elements supportive of the opposition.

Many of the older Shia families like Asfour, Aali and Bin-Rajab are broadly loyalist in orientation and will vote for candidates who are seen to be “one of them”. Ajam communities, of Iranian origin, also have their own affiliations.

In the days leading up to the elections, this has emerged as one of the most competitive districts, with dozens of billboards and adverts going up as each candidate tries to spread their support base beyond their home locality. The contest may attract reasonably high turnouts as people come out in support of their local champions, in a contest which may ultimately be about which locality holds pre-eminence in this diverse district.

Veteran contestant Abduljalil al-Aali is worth following in this contest, as well as the well-connected Mohammed Bin-Rajab. Cleric Majid al-Majid, a former leading figure from the Shirazi Amal movement (popular among the Ajam community) will be an interesting candidate to watch. His movement is considered to be a key segment of the opposition. 

Ala al-Wadaei withdrew his candidacy after his grandfather, a prominent Shia cleric, issued a statement supporting the boycott. Ala said he was withdrawing out of respect for his grandfather, but reiterated that he believed that the boycott was “wrong”. 

Many localities in the 12th Northern district half-way down Bahrain’s west coast have seen sporadic rioting over the last three years, so certain elements will be supporting the boycott. Visitors to the area in the second week of November noted the lack of elections-related activity and the absence of promotional billboards.

However, the population in this district is diverse, so incumbent Khalid Abdulaal will be trying to get his supporters out in substantial numbers.

Abdulaal only narrowly won his seat in 2011 with 51% of the vote in the second round against Ali Fardan. Fardan will be hoping for greater success in this rematch. Ali Baqer has also attracted a lot of interest for a campaign he is running primarily from his Youtube channel.

Commentators have predicted that it will be unlikely that Abdulaal can win this contest outright in the first round, particularly as it took him a second round contest to beat Ali Fardan in the last elections.


3rd Northern

Areas covered: Northern strip of west coast; Budaya, Haniniyah, Jasra, Hamala, Um Sabiyan, Um Na’san, Jiddah

Number of candidates: 6

Registered voters: 6,082


Hassan Salim Hassan Salim al-Dossary – Incumbent 

Sitting MP Al-Dossary pledged to focus on housing and standards of living, which he said were the issues voters cared about most.

Al-Dossary: “The explosion in housing demands that has expanded to 60,000 applications requires urgent and fundamental treatment”. Al-Dossary first entered Parliament in 2006. Al-Dossary in his previous Parliamentary role was head of the committee responsible for housing issues. Thus, particular local anger has been directed against him for not ensuring that housing allotment was accorded purely based on the order in which applications for housing provision were made.

Hamad Salim Ali Eid al-Dossary 

Hamad is campaigning under the slogan “National partnership… national responsibility”, with an emphasis on improving standards of living. He stresses that “the youth is the most important tool for change”, calling for voters to back younger candidates.

Hamad is seen as a particularly strong contender, having twice helped mastermind the successful electoral campaigns of his now-rival Hassan Salim al-Dossary.

Hamad said that this “national responsibility” included action to stamp out corruption and outdated standards of administration. @hamadaldoseri_

Adel Jassim Mohammed Ali al-Dossary

Al-Dossary had originally been flagged to be standing as a National Unity Gathering candidate, but was later removed from the list. Adel has invested heavily in this campaign and was one of the first figures placing huge billboards around the local area. However, at least one pundit described him as being a strong contender, but not a front-runner and more of a figure who could decide the contest, depending on which contender he decided to throw his support behind in the second round.

Firas Samir Abdullah Nouruddin 

Firas told Al-Wasat newspaper of his determination to achieve “fundamental change” in economic and cultural issues and “rejecting hatred”, as well as improving standards of education.

Nouruddin has criticized previous attempts to deal with housing, educational and economic issues by Parliament as incoherent responses that failed to take the form of a holist and comprehensive strategy.

Nouruddin is described as having a strong economic background, as well as being intimately informed about the dynamics of the local community. With huge billboards on every street corner, Nouruddin may turn out to be the non-Dossary candidate who many in the area unite behind. @F_Nooruddin

Mamdouh Jaffar Ali Marhoun 

Marhoun has pledged to focus on improving wages and standards of living.

Abdulaziz Saleh Ali Saleh al-Dhawadi

So far, little has been heard in the media concerning Al-Dhawadi’s campaign. However, in a contest that focused largely on kinship affiliations, we will have to wait and see what proportion of the district unite behind perceived outsiders like Marhoun and Al-Dhawadi.

6th Northern

Areas covered: Aali

Number of candidates: 8

Registered voters: 10,704


Mohammed Jaffar Ahmed al-Shaikh Khalaf Al Asfour

Al Asfour said that if elected his programme would focus on economic development, in the context of the Vision 2030 programme for the kingdom of Bahrain. He stressed that parliamentary legislation must be compatible with promoting economic growth and has prioritized the issue of parliamentary oversight of government business.

Al-Asfour has called for a greater share of the state budget to go on education and training and for attention to be given to educational reform.

Al-Asfour said that raising incomes should be a priority for the next Parliament. He referred to several past corruption cases, asking why ill-spent revenues hadn’t been returned to the state budget.

He has also been outspoken in calling for a change in regulations for housing allocation to avoid prejudicing against married couples. @alasform1

*Rua Badr Mubarak Ali Ali al-Haiki

Business consultant Al-Haiki says that one of the key results of the survey she made in the Aali constituency was a growth in support for electing women candidates. 

In an interview Al-Ayam, Al-Haiki also talked about a training consultancy initiative she had recently launched for helping increase the skills of long-term unemployed young people. One of her programmes claimed to have absorbed 778 unemployed people into the workforce.

Al-Haiki says she has proposed a housing project designed to serve young people, in parallel with existing projects. She has also called for more transparency in the process for the provision of government housing.

Al-Haiki has also called on the Ministry of Culture to work with local authorities to rescue and restore important archeological burial mounds in the area and compensate locals affected by the process.

Al-Haiki has been increasingly visible in the campaign, being the first candidate observed to publish full page promotional adverts in several Bahraini newspapers and her media adverts have been some of the most prominent out of all Bahraini candidates. She has reportedly spent 65-70,000 BD (around $180,000) on her campaign, which makes her one of the bigger spenders. @Rouaalhayki

Majid Saleh Mahdi Jawad 

Saleh said that his candidacy would prioritize “strengthening the sense of national loyalty and social solidarity and the principle of peaceful coexistence between all parts of society”. He also stressed in an interview to Al-Ayam the importance of creating job opportunities for graduates and the importance of recruitment based on merit. Saleh added that he also prioritized parliamentary scrutiny of Government performance. 

Mohammed Mohsin Ali al-Aali

Al-Aali hails from a prominent local Shia family, so may gain grassroots support. In 2002 Al-Aali was close to winning the municipal elections against the Al-Wefaq candidate Abdullah al-Aali who went on to become the MP.

Mohammed Ali Ghulam Ali al-Bahhar

Al-Bahhar said he wanted to prioritize restoring national unity between the different sects and components of Bahraini society, as well as improving public services and better integrating citizens in political and social decisions that affected their lives.

Sayed Moayed Neamah Hashim Ridha

Campaign slogan: “You have the right to choose, so think about your decision”.

Ali Yousif Ali Yousif al-Sayegh

Al-Sayegh has so far obtained little media coverage for his campaign. One of his campaign slogans questions why parliamentary deputies expect so much from the electorate, without delivering on what is demanded of them.

Younis Jassim Rabea Jassim Gharib

In a highly competitive area, Younis Gharib has been one of the less visible figures.

7th Northern

Areas covered: Al-Qurayah, Janabiyah, Buri, Hamalah, Dumistan

Number of candidates: 9

Registered voters: 10,245


Majid Ibrahim Hasan Ibrahim al-Majid 

Al-Majid is a local Shia cleric. Majid’s candidacy surprised people because he is closely associated with the opposition Shirazi movement and a leading member of the now-dissolved Alal Society. Al-Majid gained 845 votes in 2010, almost exactly a tenth of the score of his Al-Wefaq rival. His campaign was also marred by attacks on his candidacy by militants, who burned his campaign posters and tried to damage his local reputation. Al-Majid is said to be relying this time on his Amal supporters in the Dumistan locality.

Al-Majid: “We look at participation in elections as a matter of principle. We ideologically believed in this since the first rounds of elections. We participated and we will participate now and in the future, because participation is how nations are built”.

Mohammed Saeed Jaffar Hasan Abdulrasoul Bin-Rajab

Mohammed is son of the former Governor of the Northern Governorate and his brother is contesting to be a municipal councilor. He said he would “fight against the corruption which is running rampant in the country”. His slogan is: “Justice… dignity… the future”.

The three components of his election programme are: Cementing national unity; improving administrative oversight in order to combat corruption; and improving standards of living.

Ahmed Hassan Yousif Hassan Al Mahmoud

Hassan is reported to be affiliated with Economic Coalition, which has a small number of associates contesting the elections. At the beginning of November Ahmed was the first to be putting up large billboards at major junctions around this constituency.

Ahmed’s campaign material talks about improving Bahrain’s coastline and other areas of investment that will open Bahrain up to tourism and foreign business.

Abduljalil Ibrahim Ali Abdullah al-Aali 

Al-Aali has been campaigning jointly with municipal candidate for the same district, Salman Khalaf. They have described their alliance as a “coalition for better achievement”. Large billboards with the two figures together have been going up around the district. Al-Aali said that the aim of this coalition was to “reassure voters that their concerns will be prioritized in our elections campaign”. @salmankhalafbh

Al-Aali performed well in the 2011 by-election but failed to win the seat in 5th Northern. 

Ali Ahmed Mohammed Makki 

Makki is known by the nick name “Abu-Gharib”. He said: “People are tired of politics and want to get on with their lives… how long will people remain out in the streets? … There must be positive interaction between all parties in order to solve the problems which Bahraini citizens suffer from.” Makki noted that his priorities were housing and public services.

Jamil Abbas Hassan Makki Yousif

Abbas told journalists that this was his first attempt at a candidacy and he was unsure of his chances, but cited his “energy and abilities” as his primary motivation.

Ali Hassan Hassan Ali Hassan Ali al-Sakran

Campaign slogan: “Together towards a better future”.

Munir Ibrahim Ahmed Hassan Ahmed Sorrour

Sorrour’s campaign literature has included the slogan “Our rights are our slogan”.

Majid Ibrahim Saleh Attiyah Adib

Majid has obtained little media coverage so far, but from the second week of November, his posters started appearing in the area.

12th Northern

Areas covered: Dumistan, Luzi, Karzakan, Malikiyah, Sadad, Shahrakan, Safariyah

Number of candidates: 6

Registered voters: 11,323


Khalid Abdulali Mohammed Abdulaal – Incumbent

Khalid gained his seat in 2011 when the sitting Al-Wefaq MP walked out of Parliament. So far Abdulaal has said little through the media about his policy positions or vision for the new Parliament, beyond a few generalities. @MPKabdulaal

Ali Fardan Mohammed Fardan

Ali Fardan lost to Abdulaal in 2011, gaining 319 votes to Abdulaal’s 335. Ali Fardan also failed to win a seat in the 2010 municipal elections. Fardan in his public statements has talked somewhat vaguely about reform and social justice.

*Dr. Jamila Mansour Jassim al-Sammak

Dr. Jamila al-Sammak was an administrative manager for government hospitals. She is now the deputy head of a university and active in civil society and a regular attendee of international conferences.

Al-Sammak has stated her determination to promote national unity and banish “marginalization, the politics of incitement and the spreading of hatred”.

Jamila said she wanted to address institutional corruption and improve standards of living.

Jamila singled out the education issue as particularly important, saying she wanted to promote skilled Bahrainis into educational positions. Jamila stood in a Capital seat in 2006 and gained just 127 votes. @vote4drjameela

Ali Baqer Ali Mohammed

Baqer told Al-Watan that he believes the priority issues to be “health, jobs, housing and education”. He has called for improved sports and social facilities for young people.

Out of concerns for elections security Ali Baqer is planning to conduct much of his campaign through a Youtube channel he has set up.

Abdulrazzaq Fardan Ali Fardan

Abdulrazzaq, standing as an independent, says that his priorities are improving standards of living and improving conditions for pensioners. He says his slogan “you first” is centred on increasing the dignity of each individual. @vote4fardan

Ammad al-Sayed Abdulrizaq Abdullah Ahmed

Ammad al-Sayed has also so far largely stayed out of the public eye during this campaign.

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