Prediction: The first-round election results were bruising for many political societies, particularly the National Unity Gathering. The most likely second-round scenario is that the Sunni societies Al-Asalah and Al-Minbar win two parliamentary seats each, meaning a total of just four seats for Sunni-loyalist political societies.
For journalists covering parliamentary elections in most parts of the world they have an easy task – it is a question of looking at the three or four main political parties and how they fare when it comes to the public vote.
In Bahrain, the composition of the Parliament is very different and it’s not unusual for more than half of the Parliament to be independents, particularly since the boycott by Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, the single largest grouping.
The other two major societies in previous rounds of elections have been the Sunni Islamist societies: The Salafist Al-Asalah Society and the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Al-Minbar Society.
In the past, these two groups have tried to coordinate their elections strategy, this was less successful in 2010 and the result was that these two societies only won five seats between them; three for Asalah and two for Minbar.
However, in 2014, Minbar decided to compete as part of the new loyalist Al-Fateh Coalition. Three other Al-Fateh societies put forward candidates: The National Unity Gathering put forward seven candidates, Mithaq fielded three and Al-Wasat’s secretary-general Ahmed Al Binali contested in the 3rd Muharraq district. Minbar fielded five candidates and Asalah acting completely independently put forward six.
However, even the Al-Fateh societies didn’t fully agree on an elections strategy. For example, in 1st Southern the vote was split three ways between the NUG, Minbar and Asalah.
The only other major political society associated with the elections was the new liberal grouping Al-Watan. However, several members stood as independents, the secretary-general former MP Ahmed al-Saati did not register and several prominent candidates like Lulwa Mutlaq, Bard al-Hammadi and Adel Al Safr performed worse than expected in the 22 November first round vote.
There was a pervasive sense prior to the elections that voters were losing trust in political societies and the prospects were stronger for independent candidates. In fact, several figures known to be associated with political societies competed on an independent platform for precisely this reason.
The first round vote
The first round vote was a disaster for the National Unity Gathering. None of its seven candidates made it into the second round and several figures scored very disappointingly in the public vote. Mithaq and Wasat performed a little better, with two from Mithaq and Wasat’s candidate all getting second place and making it into the second round. However, none of these contestants are favourites to win in the second round vote on 29 November.
Asalah lost two candidates in the first round, Abdulnasir al-Mahmeed (3rd Muharraq) and Abdulrazzaq al-Hattab (5th Southern). However Asalah’s Abdulhalim Murad was one of the few candidates to win outright in the first round with more than 50% of the vote and guarantee their place in Parliament.
There were three districts where Asalah and Minbar went head-to-head. In 1st Southern, the Minbar contestant was knocked out, but Asalah’s Adnan al-Maliki came a distant second to independent candidate Khalid al-Shaer (1797 votes to 1198). In 10th Northern Asalah’s Khalid al-Mahmoud came a distant second to Minbar’s Mohammed al-Ammadi (3643 votes to 2138)
In 7th Muharraq Asalah’s Ali al-Muqlah narrowly beat Minbar’s Nasser al-Fadhalah into second place (1599 votes to 1525). So all three of these Asalah candidates are through to the second round, but only Al-Muqla is (narrowly) a favourite to win.
Therefore the most likely scenario is that Asalah get two parliamentary seats; Abdulhalim Murad’s seat is guaranteed and Ali al-Muqla may hold his lead against Al-Fadhalah in 7th Muharraq.
Al-Minbar also have four contestants through to the second round. However, two of these – as we have seen – have to face-off against Asalah candidates.
Minbar’s Saadi Mohammed came first place in 1st Muharraq (1986 votes to Ali Bufursan’s 1567) and Adel al-Dhawadi squeezed into the second round, scoring 1848 votes against 2158 votes for independent candidate Isa Turki.
With one Asalah candidate guaranteed a seat, and two seats where Asalah and Minbar are competing against each other, the minimum number of parliamentary seats these societies can win between them is three. The maximum number of seats these two societies can win is six. However, as we have seen, two candidates – Asalah’s Al-Maliki and Minbar’s Al-Dhawadi – are not favourites to win their seats.
Therefore, the most likely scenario is that Minbar and Asalah come away with four seats between them, probably two each.
However, this doesn’t stop these societies allying themselves with other nominally independent figures in the Parliament to widen the size of their political bloc and strengthen their influence.