In the Northern Governorate only the 11th Northern seat was won outright in the first round with Jamal Daoud winning 62% of the vote. In 10th Northern Sunni political societies Minbar and Asalah go head-to-head in the second round. The only other seat with a society remaining in the race is 8th Northern where Minbar’s Adel al-Dhawadi came second place to Isa Turki.
Two women, Rua al-Haiki (6th Northern) and Jamila al-Sammak (12th Northern) won convincingly in the first round and look set to win the second. In 1st Northern Fatimah al-Asfour only came in six votes behind incumbent MP Ali al-Dirazi. Some of the far northern constituencies were adversely affected by the boycott.
1st Northern – Ali al-Dirazi (MP) vs. Fatimah al-Asfour
Areas covered: Hilla, Meqsha, Karranah, Janusan, Barbar, Diraz
Housing blocks: 444, 450, 454, 456, 458, 460, 502, 504, 506, 508, 514, 518, 520, 522, 524, 526, 528, 530, 536
Registered voters: 10,749
Total number of votes: 869
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 705
Percentage voter turnout: 8.1%
Votes per candidate:
Ali al-Dirazi (MP) – 189 (26.8%)
Fatimah al-Asfour – 183 (26.0%)
Defeated candidates: Hussain Habib – 164 (23.3%); Yassir Nassif – 68 (9.7%); Mohammed Rabea – 47; Jaffar al-Asfour – 33; Mohammed Shehab – 21
Standing MP Al-Dirazi has been very visible in all the newspapers, indicating that he will be by far the most recognizable face in a constituency where any attempts by candidates to promote themselves exposes them to significant risks.
Fatimah al-Asfour’s strong result may come as a surprise to many. She was not one of the more visible candidates during the first round of this contest and received no coverage in the media.
However, as a candidate hailing from the prominent Asfour family, which is Shia but generally supportive of the monarchy, and as the only woman in this contest it is perhaps not surprising that many of those who defied the boycott gave her their vote.
Considering that as the incumbent MP Ali al-Dirazi has fought by far the most visible and expensive campaign; the fact that Fatimah – the outsider – only gained six less votes suggests that victory could be in her grasp, if she can consolidate her support.
Large and numerous Ali al-Dirazi billboards are on view all along the Budaya highway at the major entrances to this district. Several of these billboards have been attacked and burnt. At least two candidates in this contest were subject to severe firebomb attacks by opposition militants in late October.
This district – which has lost some of its territory to the Capital Governorate – has been right at the centre of the post-2011 unrest. Therefore, widespread efforts by militants to enforce the boycott were inevitable.
Immediately prior to the elections, local Ayatollah, Isa Qassim spoke out in defence of the elections boycott. Diraz represents the epicenter of support for Al-Wefaq Islamic Society. These Shia villages have always taken their lead from their religious leadership and so for many the instruction to boycott was effectively a fatwa that had to be obeyed.
However, the appearance of candidates from the prominent Asfour and Dirazi families illustrates the fact that these communities are not entirely of one mind, with several influential figures questioning why the opposition is removing itself from the democratic and parliamentary process.
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 Al-Dirazi stressed the issues of housing, improving quality of life and strengthening the private sector, including the need to improve private sector wages.
He has also called for strengthening Parliament’s powers, in order to better hold ministers to account and monitor public sector spending.
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.
*Fatimah Abdulmahdi Yousif al-Asfour
The Shia Asfour family is historically one of Bahrain’s foremost families. The Asfour have traditionally had close ties to the monarchy and several are prominent Shia clerics.
The recent death and funeral of cleric and royal advisor Ahmed al-Asfour was commemorated across the country with people from all segments of society mourning the passing of a respected national figure.
Fatimah was one of two members of the Asfour family competing in this district, with many Asfours competing in both the municipal and parliamentary elections and one family member, Majid al-Asfour, already having won his seat in 8th Capital.
As the only female candidate in this locality, many people will be pleased to see Fatimah performing so well. Although she has erected a few billboards along the Budaya highway, Fatimah a-Asfour’s campaign has done little to solicit coverage in the national media, so her policy positions and priorities have not been widely disseminated.
2nd Northern – Jalal Kadhim vs. Hussain al-Hamar
Areas covered: Markh, Bani Jamra, Diraz
Housing blocks: 531, 537, 538, 539, 540, 541, 542, 543, 544, 580, 582, 583, 584, 586, 588, 590
Registered voters: 6,970
Total number of votes: 560
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 446
Percentage voter turnout: 8.0%
Votes per candidate:
Jalal Kadhim – 183 (41.0%)
Hussain al-Hamar – 170 (38.1%)
Defeated candidate: Fadhil al-Dirazi – 93 (20.9%)
In the early phases of this contest Jalal Kadhim was the only figure visibly pursuing his candidacy, with coverage in the media, online activity and posters advocating his candidacy on view around the district, some of which were vandalized.
Jalal is also the only candidate in this locality known to have opened a campaign headquarters to receive members of the public.
In an area of overwhelming hostility to the elections contest, Jalal has come across as a confident and tenacious candidate; so it is unsurprising to see him coming out ahead.
From around a week prior to the elections Hussain al-Hamar’s billboards began to appear around the constituency, particularly along the major highways, where vandalism was less likely. Al-Hamar was not deterred by the firebombing of his car earlier in the campaign.
Both Kadhim and Al-Hamar are good examples of the many young candidates who have come out in predominantly pro-opposition areas. They have been contesting hard on issues concerning local youths like unemployment, services, equal opportunities and housing.
With presumably relatively low campaign budgets and in adverse conditions they have been forced to turn to less-conventional campaigning methods like social media engagement and a reliance on personal connections at a grassroots level.
Thus, with first-round results that are too close to call, a win for either candidate will represent a breath of fresh air to Bahrain’s Parliament and will mean a direct means for the street-level concerns of the youth of pro-opposition, Shia-majority marginalized villages to be heard at a national level. Arguably this will be a very important factor for the 2014 Parliament.
Diraz is the home of Ayatollah Isa Qassim, spiritual leader of Al-Wefaq which is leading the call for a boycott of the parliamentary elections. With the local Ayatollah and leading local political societies instructing people not to vote and with militants trying to force people to stay away from the voting centres, it is remarkable that anybody voted.
However, a turnout of eight percent is still a terrible result and reflects badly on local levels of political engagement during the next parliamentary period.
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 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. His campaign has had more visibility across the media than his rivals. Some of his campaign posters have been vandalized. @JalalKadhim
Hussain Salman Hussain Salman al-Hamar
Al-Hamar told the media he would go ahead with his candidacy despite attacks against candidates in the area. Al-Hamar’s car was torched by militants trying to derail the elections.
Al-Hamar said “Freedom of expression belongs to all. Opinions can’t be confiscated due to extremist partisanship or sectarian links”.
3rd Northern – Hassan al-Dossary (MP) vs. Hamad al-Dossary
Areas covered: Northern strip of west coast; Budayya, Haniniyah, Jasra, Hamala, Um Sabiyan, Um Na’san, Jiddah
Housing blocks: 550, 552, 553, 555, 557, 559, 561, 565, 569, 587, 581, 585, 589, 591, 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1006, 1009, 1010, 1089, 1095
Registered voters: 6,082
Total number of votes: 3918
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 3782
Percentage voter turnout: 64.4%
Votes per candidate:
Hassan al-Dossary (MP) – 1437 (38.0%)
Hamad al-Dossary – 1086 (28.7%)
Defeated candidates: Adel al-Dossary – 697 (18.4%); Firas Nouruddin – 493 (13.0%); Mamdouh Marhoun – 35; Abdulaziz al-Dhawadi 34
In previous rounds of elections incumbent MP Hassan al-Dossary could take his win for granted. However, things have been different this time around.
There has been widespread dissatisfaction, particularly in the Budaya area, of a perceived failure by the local MP to use his position on the parliamentary housing committee to advocate local interests in addressing housing provision.
This widespread dissatisfaction may help explain the relatively low turnout in this Sunni loyalist area, at only 64% – despite efforts by candidates to engage people in the process.
One symptom of this frustration was two other figures from the Dossary tribe coming out against Hassan. This includes a former member of Hassan’s campaign team – Hamad al-Dossary – who has used his elections experience and his relatively young age to seek to engage the youth demographic.
Hassan, the standing MP, has come out clearly ahead in the first round. This indicates that a significant proportion of constituents have remained loyal to their deputy.
However, 62% of voters supported other candidates in the first round. Therefore, many of them may transfer their votes to the younger Hamad al-Dossary in the second round.
In fact, some pundits were predicting from an early stage that the public would unite behind whoever emerged as the rival to their former MP in the second round.
We will have to wait for 29 November to see whether these predictions come true and who gains the most support in the final vote. The results could be very close.
This area encompasses many of the Sunni/loyalist localities along the north of Bahrain’s west coast, like Budaya, Hamala and Jasra. Despite being one of the largest Northern constituencies in geographical size, 3rd Northern has only 6,082 registered voters.
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.
Given these facts, it is significant that the top three performing candidates all hailed from the Dossary tribe.
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, a certain amount of 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 has emerged as perhaps one of the most recognizable new faces of the 2014 Bahrain elections, gaining plenty of media coverage, being active through the social media, investing in billboards and engaging widely with the local public.
4th Northern – Ghazi Al Rahmah vs. Nawaf al-Sayed
Areas covered: Jidhafs, Jabla Habshi, North Sehla, Qadam, Abu-Quwwah
Housing blocks: 431, 433, 435, 439, 441, 447, 455, 457, 702, 704, 706, 708, 712, 714, 744
Registered voters: 9,277
Total number of votes: 2504
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 2201
Percentage voter turnout: 27.0%
Votes per candidate:
Ghazi Al Rahmah – 646 (29.4%)
Nawaf al-Sayed – 571 (25.9%)
Defeated candidates: Huda Radhi – 438 (19.9%); Hussain Jawad – 335 (15.2%); Mohammed al-Aleywi – 211 (9.6%)
This was certainly one of the more difficult districts to predict, with only a limited amount of local campaigning being possible due to pro-boycott activity. In the event, Huda Radhi – by far the most visible candidate – only came third place.
In the weeks before the elections Ghazi Al Rahmah came out with a very visible and clearly-branded campaign, geared towards younger voter demographics. His campaign team were also successful in soliciting media coverage, during which he criticized the performance of former deputies and condemned the poor provision of services to the local area.
Ghazi pledged to work harder for his constituents in ensuring they were given due consideration for housing provision, services, infrastructure and jobs.
Nawaf al-Sayed has waged an energetic campaign through the social media, during which he has highlighted the importance of promoting tolerance and the celebration of diversity between the different components of Bahrain’s society.
Both candidates are seen as middle-ground and non-divisive figures who can attract voters from across the political spectrum. Both seem to have been contesting to attract a young and progressive demographic.
The absence of any strong incumbent or other prominent political figures encouraged a flurry of new faces to enter this contest. However, militants have sought to derail this process. The municipal building in Jidhafs was burned to the ground in late October causing around a million dollars’ worth of damage.
This 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) has been incorporated into the Capital Governorate, leaving behind a constituency with an average number of voters.
Although this area is majority Shia, the slightly higher turnout reflects a more diverse demographic composition than in the areas to the north (1st & 2nd Northern; 3rd Capital) that are almost wholly pro-opposition.
This constituency and the neighbouring capital constituencies have a range of political and social affiliations: Ajam, Baharana, Hawala, loyalist, opposition, secular, naturalized-Shia and many others.
The result is, that although many locals were sympathetic to the boycott, many were also willing to come out and support strong local candidates who represented the interests and aspirations of constituents.
Ghazi Faisal Hassan Hussain Al Rahmah
Al Rahmah has strongly criticized previous housing and services legislation which he said discriminated unfairly against many citizens.
Ghazi and many other candidates have been particularly critical of the regulation that combines the income of husbands and wives to determine housing allocation, and is thus seen to discriminate unfairly.
Al Rahmah has also criticized the provision of Government support, saying that 75% of this went to “foreign hotels and restaurants”. He urged public spending to be better directed for projects that benefit citizens and promote economic growth.
Al Rahmah said his campaign budget was 8,000 BD ($21,000 US). @gazialrahma
Nawaf Mohammed Yousef Mohammed al-Sayed
Nawaf al-Sayed has been focusing much of his campaign on interaction via the social media. He has called for a greater role for the private sector in facilitating housing projects and better oversight of these projects.
Al-Sayed has also urged educational reforms to encourage better understanding and mutual sympathy between Sunnis and Shia and help reinforce a climate of diversity and pluralism in Bahrain. He urged the cultivation of better awareness about political rights.
The Al-Sayed family is a Sunni Hawala family that for a period was based in Iran, but traces its roots back to Arabia. Nawaf al-Sayed is seen as a moderate candidate whose conciliatory stance reaches out to a younger and more liberal demographic. @nasaae7
5th Northern – Ali al-Aradi vs. Jamil al-Rowaei
Areas covered: Qadam, Hajar, Abu Saiba, Shakhurah, Muqaba, Diraz, Sar, Markh
Housing blocks: 449, 453, 435, 439, 441, 447, 457, 702, 704, 706, 708, 712, 714, 744
Registered voters: 10,388
Total number of votes: 1696
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 1497
Percentage voter turnout: 16.3%
Votes per candidate:
Ali al-Aradi – 339 (22.7%)
Jamil al-Rowaei – 338 (22.6%)
Defeated candidates: Ahmed al-Najjar – 236 (15.8%); Jamil al-Mahari – 104 (7.0%); Fadhil al-Harz – 100; Nabil al-Lababidi – 98; Hannan Abdulaziz – 96; Isa Taqi – 91; Mohammed Mohsin – 65; Mohammed Khalil – 30;
From the outset of this campaign two contestants came out strongly as the most visible and competitive, forcing themselves on the local consciousness through hundreds of billboards and a mass of promotional activity.
Consultant for the Bahrain Chamber for Conflict Resolution Ali al-Aradi has been staring down at drivers from billboards placed all the way along major roads since the start of the contest and he has appeared in the media almost every day, discussing a broad range of policy initiatives, along with a lot of paid advertising.
Former civil servant Jamil al-Rowaei has also been appearing regularly in the national media discussing his policy initiatives, with a well-organized and well-funded campaign.
Other candidates fought hard and also got their campaign material out widely, but it always felt like they were playing catch-up with the two front-runners.
Given the intensity of this campaign, the candidates will almost certainly be disappointed with the very low turnout. It appears that even the middle-class and Sunni segments of this constituency didn’t come out in large numbers, even though the enforcement of the boycott in the villages was inevitable.
With Al-Aradi and Al-Rowaei scoring only one vote apart it would be futile to predict the final result. Both candidates are professional figures who are new to politics, but who can clearly afford to conduct strong and effective campaigns.
This is shaping up to be one of the most exciting battles in the top half of the Northern Governorate. In contrast with neighbouring constituencies where election campaigns have been almost invisible, dozens of candidate billboards have been going up every few metres along the main highways traversing this area.
The villages in this district are familiar as rioting hotspots so there is likely to be active opposition to any kind of participation in elections in this area. However, the extensive new housing developments in this area has gone to a cosmopolitan mix of middle-class families who can be expected to turn out and vote if candidates succeed in attracting their attention. The extensive compounds in this area are also popular with expat residents, making this one of Bahrain’s most diverse communities.
Ali Abdullah Ali Hussain al-Aradi
Al-Aradi is a consultant in the Bahrain Chamber for Conflict Resolution with a background in law and human rights.
He has stressed to work to increase investment in Bahrain and promote the economy, so as to improve standards of living for Bahrainis. Al-Aradi noted the need to hold companies to account which had failed to deliver in full on public sector projects.
Al-Aradi says he has a number of initiatives he plans to pursue in Parliament to reduce the state budget’s dependence on oil revenues. Al-Aradi has called for an “Independent Higher Council for the media” for enforcing standards and upholding the rights of journalists. Al-Aradi has also spoken out on the need to address corruption through legislation to increase oversight of government and administrative activity.
Al-Aradi noted the lack of legislation concerning the various forms of discrimination in Bahraini society, promising to address this if he made it to Parliament.
Analysts have noted Al-Aradi’s strong chances, reflecting that he has a significant amount of relevant experience and comes from an important local family. Al-Watan newspaper praised his “pluralist and balanced statements which avoid extremism and sectarianism, and which have gained him popular acceptance”.
Jamil Hassan Saleh 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. Al-Rowaei has also talked about the need for government measures to address the many stalled housing projects.
As well as promoting himself through campaign posters, Al-Rowaei has been active through social media outlets like Twitter, directly engaging with voters. @JAlrowaie
6th Northern – Rua al-Haiki vs. Mohammed Al Asfour
Areas covered: Aali
Housing blocks: 730, 732, 734, 736, 738, 740, 742
Registered voters: 10,704
Total number of votes: 2160
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 1927
Percentage voter turnout: 20.2%
Votes per candidate:
Rua al-Haiki – 718 (37.3%)
Mohammed Al Asfour – 323 (16.8%)
Defeated candidates: Majid Saleh – 280 (14.5%); Mohammed al-Aali – 261 (13.5%); Mohammed al-Bahhar – 199 (10.3%); Moayed Neamah – 61; Ali al-Sayegh – 54; Younis Jassim – 31
Young businesswoman Rua al-Haiki from the outset was the local candidate pursuing the most systematic, visible and well-funded campaign, with large adverts in national newspapers.
By positioning herself as a business woman and technocrat with practical experience in addressing unemployment, Al-Haiki was targeting both the middle-class “loyalist” communities and disaffected young people who want to see changes that will offer them a better future.
However, Al-Haiki is a new face in political circles and there were questions about whether such a professional campaign would translate to grassroots support in an area where many felt a degree of alienation from the political process.
The fact that Rua has gained more than twice as many votes as her closest rival, the distinguished local figure Mohammed Al Asfour is a remarkable achievement.
Over and above his local status, Mohammed Al Asfour stood out from most of the other local candidates with sophisticated and carefully thought through policy proposals which have been receiving media coverage.
Aali is an archaeologically significant area as the home of thousands of prehistoric burial mounds. The old village of Ali is predominantly Shia. There will be many who 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 (described by one commentator as “technocrats, liberals and business figures”), leading to a balance between the communities.
The incumbent, who won his seat in the 2011 by-election – Ahmed al-Saati – is a respected figure and the brains behind the new “Al-Watan” political society that aspires to be a moderate and progressive force in Bahraini politics. His sudden announcement half-way through the registration process that he wouldn’t be standing came as a surprise to everyone and leaves this contest wide open. The result was a rush of new candidates declaring their candidacies at the last minute.
A poll commissioned by candidate Rua al-Haiki found that the most prominent issue concerning local constituents was housing (38%), followed by employment opportunities (29%) and improving standards of living (17%), with education and health also featuring.
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. Al-Haiki is an old and important Bahraini Shia family. @Rouaalhayki
7th Northern – Majid al-Majid vs. Mohammed Bin-Rajab
Areas covered: Al-Qurayah, Janabiyah, Buri, Hamalah, Dumistan
Housing blocks: 545, 547, 549, 551, 571, 575, 577, 579, 752, 754, 756, 758, 760, 762, 1012, 1014, 1019, 1012, 1014, 1019, 1022
Registered voters: 10,245
Total number of votes: 1546
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 1278
Percentage voter turnout: 15.1%
Votes per candidate:
Majid al-Majid – 366 (28.6%)
Mohammed Bin-Rajab – 199 (15.6%)
Defeated candidates: Munir Ibrahim – 193 (15.1%); Ahmed Hassan – 109 (8.5%);Ali Sakran – 104; Majid Ibrahim – 101; Abduljalil al-Aali – 90; Jamil Abbas – 75; Ali Makki – 41
Cleric Majid al-Majid, a former leading figure from the Shirazi Amal movement, was an interesting addition to the 2014 parliamentary elections contest. His candidacy got a lot of media attention as a heavyweight nominally pro-opposition figure deciding to compete, although Al-Majid has previously contested the elections.
Young candidate Mohammed Bin-Rajab is son of the former Governor of the Northern Governorate and his brother is contesting to be a municipal councilor. His candidacy campaign has been active at a local level in trying to bring Shia loyalists and moderates out to vote and seeking to engage younger voters.
The lack of a sitting MP or a major obvious political heavyweight in this constituency encouraged numerous independent candidates to declare themselves. The same could be said about many of the constituencies running through the centre of Bahrain where boundary changes have left many areas without a standing MP and with political societies rarely fielding candidates.
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.
However, the Shia demographic shouldn’t be equated with opposition support. Many of the older families like Asfour, Aali and Bin-Rajab are loyalist in orientation and will vote for candidates who are seen to be “one of them”. Ajam communities, of Iranian origin, also tend to stand apart from Al-Wefaq with their own clergy and affiliations.
Some observers have contextualized the candidacy of figures like Al-Majid as a sign of cracks appearing between the Shirazi movement and other segments of the opposition.
This is a large and geographically disbursed district featuring a diverse range of communities, making it difficult for candidates to reach out to everyone; hence the confusion of certain candidates who are respectively positioning themselves to gain pro-opposition votes, middle-class votes, or the support of traditional elites.
An Al-Watan survey of the views of local constituents found that many people were determined to vote “for the sake of the nation”, but that there was a general disappointment with the past performance of parliamentary representatives and an emphasis on the familiar issues of housing, wage levels, unemployment and services.
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”.
Bin-Rajab is one of the oldest and highly respected Bahraini Shia families, with both loyalist and opposition representatives; most obviously: Information Minister Sameera Rajab and her cousin, opposition figurehead Nabeel Rajab.
The three components of Mohammed’s election programme are: Cementing national unity; improving administrative oversight in order to combat corruption; and improving standards of living.
8th Northern – Isa Turki vs. Adel al-Dhawadi (Minbar)
Areas covered: Hamad Town
Housing blocks: 1206, 1204, 1203, 1016
Registered voters: 8,521
Total number of votes: 6124
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 5845
Percentage voter turnout: 71.9%
Votes per candidate:
Isa Turki – 2158 (36.9%)
Adel al-Dhawadi (Minbar) – 1848 (31.6%)
Defeated candidates: Jassim Hijris – 1352 (23.1%); Maryam al-Mahrous – 344 (5.9%); Bader al-Dossary – 143
Isa Turki has done well to come out comfortably ahead of the representative of Sunni society Al-Minbar from the Al-Fateh Coalition
Al-Minbar’s helped make Adel al-Dhawadi the most visible candidate in this race and Al-Dhawadi was the first to open his headquarters.
It was important for Sunni political societies like Al-Minbar to perform well in Hamad Town, as their prospects were less certain in other parts of central Bahrain. In the event, there is a second round run-off between Al-Minbar and Al-Asalah (Salafist) in neighbouring 10th Northern, also Hamad Town.
Minbar’s Muslim Brotherhood affiliations, which once were a bonus, have become slightly more problematic in the current regional geo-political situation, making constituents potentially more hesitant in showing unconditional support.
So Isa Turki looks like the favourite for the second round, but Al-Minbar and Al-Fateh will be looking to consolidate local support behind his rival, Al-Dhawadi.
Both candidates have focused their campaign at a local level and have had a relatively low profile in the national media.
Hamad Town is a sprawling working-class region of Bahrain that expanded significantly over recent decades. The mixed population and changes to constituency boundaries make election results difficult to predict, however the 8th Northern district is predominantly Sunni and loyalist, hence a turnout of over 70 percent.
People will be looking for deputies who can make credible promises for improving services, housing provision and jobs. Islamic candidates have tended to perform well.
Tents for promoting the candidacy of Isa Turki were burned on 5 November. This seems to have occurred in the context of a series of attacks against candidates by militants seeking to disrupt the contest.
Isa Ahmed Mustafa Turki
Turki told Al-Watan newspaper that the high number of candidates in the 2014 elections was an indication of the “climate of democracy in Bahrain based on respect for individual freedoms along with the increasing momentum of political progress”.
Turki criticized the failure of political societies for failing to agree on unified lists, saying that this was “evidence that their approach was based on blind loyalty, not on competence or skills”. @isa_turki
Adel Sharidah Yousif al-Dhawadi – Minbar
Al-Dhawadi noted an accumulated 25 years of political experience. He is a political advisor for Al-Minbar Society.
Al-Dhawadi says the boundary changes encouraged him to participate, believing this would increase his chances.
9th Northern – Hassan al-Alawi vs. Abdulhamid al-Najjar
Areas covered: Hamad Town
Housing blocks: 1210, 1209, 1207, 1205
Registered voters: 12,315
Total number of votes: 4983
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 4634
Percentage voter turnout: 40.5%
Votes per candidate:
Hassan al-Alawi – 1091 (23.5%)
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar – 1061 (22.9%)
Defeated candidates: Yousif Zainal – 952 (20.5%); Abdullah Tarrar – 536 (11.6%); Mohammed Baqer – 421 (9.1%); Ahmed Arad (NUG) – 258 (5.6%); Mahmoud Abdulrahman – 177; Ahmed al-Qahiri – 86; Ahmed Yousif – 52
Hassan al-Alawi, like many clerics in this contest, clearly staked his chances on his existing local profile through his engagement with local constituents via the pulpit. As such, there has been no media coverage of him and his policy pronouncements and slogans have been very general.
Although Al-Najjar hasn’t previously made it into public office, his previous participation in parliamentary elections contests shows what a locally strong candidate he is, so it is no surprise that he has made it into the second round.
Both second-round candidates are Sunnis with a very clear religious agenda. Al-Najjar stated earlier in the contest that his priority was fighting “moral corruption”.
The fact that Shia cleric Mohammed Baqer got nearly 10 percent of the vote, shows both the sectarian diversity of this constituency and the importance of traditional religious values here.
Hamad Town is a demographically mixed conurbation. The majority of voters in the 9th District can be expected to back a Sunni loyalist candidate. However, the diversity of the candidates reflects the presence of Bahrani and Ajam Shia communities, who could influence the vote if they turned out in large numbers.
The very varied turnout rates in different Hamad Town constituencies – between 40% and more than 70% – reflects this diversity.
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain Ahmed al-Najjar
Sunni figure Al-Najjar said he had received offers from several political societies to participate on their lists, but declined, “fearing that this would diminish my chances”.
Abdulhamid al-Najjar at an early stage said he had centred his campaign around the theme of fighting “moral corruption”. However, he has since been vocal about the need to improve the performance of local authorities and better allocation of public funds.
In the 2011 by-election Al-Asalah’s Khalid al-Maloud narrowly won in the second round against Al-Najjar, proving what a strong contender Al-Najjar is. @aaa_alnajar
Hassan Mohammed Tayyeb al-Alawi
10th Northern – Mohammed al-Ammadi (MP Minbar) vs. Khalid al-Maloud (MP Asalah)
Areas covered: Hamad Town
Housing blocks: 1218, 1214, 1212, 1208
Registered voters: 10,552
Total number of votes: 7751
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 7424
Percentage voter turnout: 73.5%
Votes per candidate:
Mohammed al-Ammadi (MP Minbar) – 3643 (49.1%)
Khalid al-Maloud (MP Asalah) – 2138 (28.8%)
Defeated candidates: Sima al-Lengawi (NUG) – 798 (10.8%); Hisham Rabeah – 334 (4.5%); Saad Sultan – 317; Abdulqadir Abduljalil – 137; Khalid al-Zubari – 57
There was clearly a desire to avoid these two Minbar and Asalah heavyweights going head-to-head; either through a Minbar-Asalah electoral alliance; or through one of these figures changing his address following the boundary changes.
However, their failure to avoid a confrontation will make this constituency a flashpoint in the contest between Sunni Islamist groupings. Minbar and Asalah are also to go head-to-head in the second round of one other constituency – 7th Muharraq.
At a national level, Asalah have tended to look like the stronger society in 2014 for a number of reasons, so Minbar will be pleased and relieved to have come out ahead in this constituency, largely based on the strength and local popularity of their candidate Mohammed al-Ammadi.
Asalah’s Khalid al-Maloud has a lot of ground to make up to pose a serious threat in the second round.
The National Unity Gathering will be bitterly disappointed that Sima al-Lengawi failed to make the second round, in a national contest where this society has performed disastrously, failing to get a single candidate to the second round.
The 10th Northern constituency is a long, narrow strip running north to south through densely-populated Hamad Town.
Working-class families experiencing growing costs of living and struggling with issues of housing and service provision will be looking for candidates who can deliver on their promises.
It is significant that both Asalah and Minbar have played down religious agendas in these elections, focusing on prosaic issues like housing, jobs and services.
Mohammed Ismail Abbas Ahmed al-Ammadi – Minbar Incumbent
Al-Ammadi, a leading figure in the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Al-Minbar al-Islami has said that his society’s campaign will focus on how public funds are spent.
Al-Ammadi stressed that Al-Minbar had a unified campaign which would focus on the economy, infrastructure and improving standards of living.
He stressed that in his own constituency he wanted to address the issue of service provision, particularly improving access to local health centres and power supply.
Khalid Jassim Ali al-Maloud – Asalah incumbent
Khalid gained his seat in 2011 when the sitting Al-Wefaq MP walked out of Parliament. In the 2011 by-election Al-Asalah member, Al-Maloud narrowly won in the second round against Abdulhamid al-Najjar, who is now contesting in the 9th Northern District.
Al-Maloud has called on the Housing Ministry to take steps to disburse 110 newly-built homes in Hamad Town to local citizens. He said that Hamad Town had been “forgotten” when it came to housing and provision of services.
Al-Maloud has called for greater attention by the authorities to social conditions in Hamad Town, pointing to the poor conditions of streets, houses and services in many areas. He has also spoken out about accelerating projects for improving Hamad Town services, as promised by the Prime Minister
Al-Ammadi said that a major reason for youths being involved in acts of vandalism and militancy was a lack of facilities. He called for investment in activities for young people in Hamad Town.
11th Northern – Winning candidate: Jamal Dawoud
Areas covered: Hamad Town, Dar Kulayb
Housing blocks: 1216, 1215, 1213, 1211, 1046
Registered voters: 12,341
Total number of votes: 5387
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 5022
Percentage voter turnout: 43.7%
Votes per candidate:
Jamal Dawoud – 3097 (61.67%) ****
Defeated candidates: Mohammed Buqais (MP) – 582 (11.6%); Jaffar al-Hamiri – 493 (9.8%); Ali al-Fadhli – 435 (8.7%); Thamir al-Qaran – 415 (8.3%)
November 2014 is clearly Jamal Daoud’s moment; having performed strongly but failed to win in both the 2006 and 2010 elections.
Note that only one other candidate who isn’t an incumbent MP (Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 8th Muharraq) has succeeded in winning their seat without having to face a second round battle. With 62% of the vote, this is the third largest share received across all of Bahrain’s constituencies.
It was always obvious that Jamal was a front-runner, but it wasn’t obvious how convincingly he would beat MP Mohammed Buqais. Buqais fought a bullish campaign, gained a lot of media coverage, attracted a lot of visitors to his campaign HQ and seemed to be doing everything right to win back his seat.
Buqais’s failure may be a symptom of public frustration with the performance of the previous Parliament or perhaps Buqais personally alienated many local people.
As an outspoken Islamist MP, Buqais often advocated measures to Islamicize society. Buqais can be compared to Jassim al-Saeedi (8th Southern) also an independent Islamist MP who was expected to perform well, but was soundly defeated on polling day.
The Hamad Town constituencies have relatively high numbers of registered voters and 11th Northern is demographically the second largest constituency in Bahrain in terms of registered voters.
The inclusion of the Shia-majority Dar Kulayb locality could have allowed the opposition to have commanded this area if they had chosen to contest.
The 44% turnout reflects this mixed population – between those advocating for a boycott and those determined to come out and vote.
Jamal Dawoud Salman Ahmed
Dawoud told Al-Watan: “It was a particular segment of Bahraini society that made it into the previous Parliament. Society must alter its thinking in order to bring in new faces to bring about change”.
Jamal denied media reports that he had received support from the Salafist Al-Asalah in the previous round of elections.
However, he refused to speculate about whether he would work with any specific political grouping if he won the seat.
Dawoud came second in 2006 with 2841 votes and gained 2283 votes in 2010, but was comfortably beaten by Mohammed al-Ammadi.
12th Northern – Jamila al-Sammak vs. Ammad al-Sayed
Areas covered: Dumistan, Luzi, Karzakan, Malikiyah, Sadad, Shahrakan, Safariyah
Housing blocks: 1017, 1018, 1020, 1025, 1026, 1027, 1028, 1032, 1033, 1034, 1037, 1038, 1041, 1042, 1044
Registered voters: 11,323
Total number of votes: 2455
Valid votes (excluding void ballots): 2071
Percentage voter turnout: 21.7%
Votes per candidate:
Jamila al-Sammak – 963 (46.5%)
Ammad al-Sayed – 315 (15.2%)
Defeated candidates: Khalid Abdulaal (MP) – 287 (13.9%); Abdulrazzaq Fardan – 245 (11.8%); Ali Baqer – 150; Ali Fardan – 111
The substantial vote for Jamila al-Sammak is something of a surprise. She had a hesitant start to her campaign in a difficult district where the boycott was obviously going to be strong. However, her experience in fighting previous rounds of elections seems to have paid off, as she came out and conducted interviews with the media and succeeded in engaging local support.
The fact that Jamila came so far ahead of the incumbent MP Khalid Abdulaal is remarkable. With around 47% of the vote, she was close to winning outright in the first round.
Abdulaal only narrowly won his seat in 2011 with 51% of the vote in the second round against Ali Fardan. He seemed to hardly be bothering to contest this election, failed to engage with the media and there is no sign that he went out seriously campaigning at all.
There is little available information about Ammad Abdulrizaq, who also was seen to do little active campaigning and would have a long way to go to catch up with Jamila in the second round.
Many localities in this 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, except on the main road entering Dumistan.
A 21.7% turnout, given the boycott, is probably higher for this area than most people were expecting and perhaps reflects a success for the candidates in reaching out to those who are prepared to vote.
*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
Ammad al-Sayed Abdulrizaq Abdullah Ahmed
Ammad al-Sayed has also so far largely stayed out of the public eye during this campaign.
In an area where the boycott is strictly enforced by militants, such a low key approach may be prudent. Presumably he picked up his 315 votes principally through local connections.