Some of those who have been following the latter stages of the Bahrain elections have expressed confusion about why such a small proportion of MPs are standing for re-election.
On 22 November, the day of the first round of elections, only 25 MPs were contesting to win 22 of the 40 available seats.
This ratio changed dramatically again when the results of the first round were announced and a further nine MPs had been driven out of the competition, with several others seeming to have shaky prospects for the second round vote. The most likely scenario is that only around ten incumbent MPs will regain their seats in the new Parliament, with three quarters of seats being taken by new arrivals. Here we look at how this situation came about.
Ten withdrawals prior to registration
The announcement of sweeping boundary changes to almost all of Bahrain’s constituency borders was one of the decisive factors in making these elections a more exciting prospect for voters and observers and a more daunting prospect for many candidates.
The changes made constituency sizes much fairer, but with radically different constituencies it was very difficult to predict how people would vote, and beyond that, around a third of sitting MPs suddenly found themselves in constituencies with other serving deputies.
For example, the initial situation in the new 4th Capital constituency was that three MPs, Abdulrahman Bumajid, Hassan Bukhamas and Abdulhakim al-Shamari found themselves competing against each other.
Al-Shamari succeeded in getting his address changed to 5th Capital next door, which prompted the sitting MP there, Jamal Abdullah, to promptly drop out of the race. However, ironically, once Al-Shamari had successfully registered a petition was successfully made to the court that Al-Shamari had no right to stand in that constituency and he was forced to withdraw.
MP since 2002 Khamis al-Rumaihi withdrew from the contest after finding himself standing against similarly long-serving MP Jassim al-Saeedi in 8th Southern, and Ahmed al-Mulla succeeded in changing his address from 7th Southern to 10th Southern, to avoid standing against Abdullah Bin-Huwail, prompting 10th Southern MP Latifa al-Qaoud to drop out.
However, some MPs chose to remain in the race and fight it out against their new rivals; like Ibtisam Hijres and Ahmed Qarratah in 2nd Capital; as well as Minbar MP Mohammed al-Ammadi and Asalah’s Khalid al-Maloud in 11th Northern.
All in all, 10 MPs from the previous Parliament chose not to register themselves for the 2014 elections (Khalifa al-Dhahrani (2002-2014), Jamal Abdullah (2011-2014), Ahmed al-Saati (2011-2014), Sawsan Taqawi (2011-2014), Othman Sharif al-Rais (2002-2006 & 2011-2014), Khamis al-Rumaihi (2002-2014), Abdulhamid al-Meer (2010-2014), Ali Ahmed (Minbar 2002-2014), Ali al-Zayid (2010-2014) and Latifa al-Qaoud (2006-2014).
Some of these figures had entered the Parliament in the 2011 by-election after the Al-Wefaq walk-out and so had come into Parliament on relatively small numbers of votes, making their chances of winning less likely in 2014.
However, some of these MPs who chose not to stand again were long-standing and highly respected figures, like head of the Parliament Khalifa al-Dhahrani.
Five withdrawals between registration and polling day
However, the numbers of MPs in the competition after the late-October registration process had finished continued to drop. As we saw above, a court decision quickly excluded Abdulhakim al-Shamari from standing in 5th Capital.
Soon afterwards, MP since-2002, Abdullah al-Dossary was appointed by the King as secretary-general of the Representative Council, necessitating Al-Dossary’s withdrawal from the contest in 9th Southern.
Later, the former Asalah MP Adel al-Moawdah who had also served since 2002 withdrew from the highly-competitive 1st Muharraq contest.
2011 MP Jawad Buhussain quietly withdrew from the race in the contest for Sitra in 9th Capital, an area where many contestants had been threatened and attacked. In the same constituency Osama al-Tamimi had been forced out of the contest shortly after registration, when another candidate contested that his address was not technically within the constituency. Al-Tamimi had already been thrown out of Parliament earlier in 2014 for behaviour unbecoming of an MP, so there will have been relief in some quarters about him not making it through.
Abdulhakim al-Shamari (2011-2014), Abdullah al-Dossary (2002-2014), Adel al-Moawdah (Asalah, 2002-2014, Jawad Buhussain (2011-2014), Osama al-Tamimi (2011-2014)
Twelve MPs fail to get first place in 1st round
Three MPs squeezed into the second round, but only came second place: Adnan al-Maliki (1st Southern), Isa al-Qadhi (2nd Southern), Khalid al-Maloud (10th Northern).
Khalid al-Maloud (Asalah) lost to rival MP Mohammed al-Ammadi (Minbar) in the first round, so the two of them must face off in the second round, meaning that only one of these two MPs will make it back to Parliament.
MP Isa al-Qadhi was beaten convincingly by journalist Mohammed al-Ahmed in the first round in 2nd Southern (1519 votes to 1169). Al-Qadhi will have a second chance on 29 November, but it is difficult to see how he can make up the lost ground.
In 1st Southern Asalah’s MP Adnan al-Maliki lost to Khalid al-Shaer (1797 votes to 1198), making Al-Shaer the most likely victor.
Nine MPs did not gain sufficient votes on the 22 November first round vote to win or make it to a second round:
Hassan Bukhamas (2011-2014, 4th Capital), Sumayah al-Jowder (2011-2014, 10th Capital) Mahmoud al-Mahmoud (5th Muharraq, 2010-2014), Samir Khadim (2012-2014, 8th Muharraq), Ibtisam Hijres (2011-2014, 2nd Capital), Mohammed Buqais (2011-2014, 11th Northern), Khalid Abdulaal (2011-2014, 12th Northern), Salman al-Shaikh (1st Southern), Jassim al-Saeedi (2002-2014, 8th Southern).
Al-Saeedi’s low result is a particular surprise as the prevailing opinion was that he was unbeatable. Mahmoud al-Mahmoud’s defeat in 5th Muharraq was also a surprise. However, most of the other MPs who were defeated at this stage were relatively new entrants to the Parliament.
Thirteen MPs win the first round vote – three secure parliamentary seats
Ten incumbents got the most votes in the first round, but not enough to win outright. These figures will have to contest their seats in the second round:
Adel al-Assoumi (1st Capital), Ahmed Qarratah (2nd Capital), Ali Shamtout (3rd Capital), Abdulrahman Bumajid (4th Capital), Ali al-Atish (6th Capital), Abbas al-Madhi (6th Muharraq), Ali al-Dirazi (1st Northern), Hassan al-Dossary (3rd Northern); Mohammed al-Ammadi (10th Northern), Abdullah Bin-Huwail (7th Southern).
MPs like Adel al-Assoumi, Abdulrahman Bumajid, Mohammed al-Ammadi and Abdullah Bin-Huwail won convincingly and can expect to get the necessary support in the second round. Ali al-Dirazi, Ali Shamtout, Abbas al-Madhi and others only won by a handful of votes; so their return to Parliament is far from secure.
Only three incumbent MPs won outright in the first round and guaranteed their seats in Parliament; Isa al-Kooheji (4th Muharraq); Abdulhalim Murad (3rd Southern) and Ahmed al-Mulla (10th Southern).
The result of this is that out of a Parliament of 40 MPs, we may only see around ten MPs making it back into the Parliament, with three quarters of parliamentary seats being taken by new faces.
Considering that many Bahraini voters said that they wanted to see change and greater attention given to the issues they cared about, many will see this substantial influx of new figures bringing with them new skills and ideas as a very good thing for the democratic process in Bahrain.