Percentage of votes per constituency
When we look at the statistics, we find that in a handful of constituencies the opposition was very successful in enforcing the boycott, and in constituencies like 1st and 2nd Northern and 3rd Capital attendance was only around 10 percent.
However, in over half of Bahrain’s constituencies, attendance was between 60 and 90 percent, which is a very high figure for elections anywhere in the world.
Across the 10 Southern Governorate constituencies attendance averaged around 76%, while in Muharraq, attendance averaged around 73% and in half the Muharraq constituencies was 80% or over.
However, most annoying to the opposition will be those constituencies that it considered itself to have a monopoly over, but where considerable numbers of people still came out and voted.
Specifically in constituencies like 4th and 12th Northern, and 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th Capital there are significant communities which have traditionally been sympathetic to the opposition, where a significant proportion are Shia; and where there has been a lot of hardship for working class families as a result of the unrest and the economic downturn.
Yet in these constituencies we find between 20 and 50 percent of people coming out and voting, despite threats and attempts at enforcement of the boycott by opposition militants. A substantial proportion of those who voted in some of these constituencies went to general elections centres, rather than the local polling stations where they could be spotted and harassed by opposition supporters.
It also represents a major failure of the opposition that in some of these constituencies there was genuine and intense competition between a broad range of candidates in defiance of the boycott.
Notably in 5th and 7th Northern and 5th and 6th Capital, the elections campaign really came to life in the latter couple of weeks and there was a real air of excitement about which of the candidates was likely to do well, with hundreds of billboards and posters promoting the candidates down all the major streets.
Several of the figures who were candidates in these areas are those who traditionally may have been considered part of the opposition camp; Shia clerics, left-wing and human rights activists and leading members of Shia and opposition societies.
Several of these figures look set to enter the Parliament, which will make it more difficult for pro-boycott societies like Al-Wefaq to promote themselves as the sole legitimate voice of these communities.
The recent constituency boundary changes were also a major factor in opening up the competition. These changes deterred several MPs from competing at all and encouraged many new faces to declare their candidacy, while making life more difficult for established political societies. These changes equalized the size of constituencies across Bahrain and levelled the playing field.
However, when we look at the statistics they also highlight the divided nature of Bahrain’s society, with a majority of the population coming out and voting in very high numbers; while segments of our society have actively disengaged from the democratic process.
Over the next four years one of the most important tasks of parliamentarians will be to reach across these divides and promote national unity and reconciliation. For this reason it is important that Bahrain appears to be tending towards a more diverse and representative Parliament, with some of the more divisive figures already out of the competition.
A turnout of over 52 percent in the circumstances is a good result and will come as a relief to many, particularly as the turnout in the majority of constituencies was well over 60 percent and in a quarter of constituencies between 80 and 90 percent.
However, Bahrain is in urgent need of efforts to bring our nation back together and to rebuild confidence in the political process. Even in many of the staunchly loyalist areas of the country, there was widespread disenchantment with the performance of the previous Parliament, which is why three quarters of the new assembly looks set to be new faces.
The Parliament of 2014 has its work cut out for it in showing that it can deliver on its promises in making lives better for ordinary Bahrainis.
If citizens in even the most marginalized and disenchanted regions of the country begin to see an improvement in living standards and prospects for the future, with parliamentary deputies who genuinely listen to their concerns and aspirations, then we can guarantee an even more impressive turnout for elections in 2018.