We now know that around three quarters of the new Bahraini Parliament will be made up of new faces and that former MPs will become a rather modest minority. Many of these new faces are certain to be relatively young Bahrainis, a significant number of whom are only just over the required age of 35 to compete.
Several of these younger candidates have competed specifically on a platform of promoting issues of concern to young Bahrainis, such as the challenge of finding jobs for graduates, homes for young families, improving standards of education and providing facilities for young people.
It is arguably thanks in part to the energetic campaigning many of these contestants that a younger generation of Bahrainis has turned out in such high numbers in many areas, allowing the proportion of voters to be between 60 and 90% in more than half of Bahrain’s constituencies.
Two good examples of these youth contestants can be found in adjacent constituencies – Khalid al-Shaer in 1st Southern and journalist Mohammed al-Ahmed in 2nd Southern. Both contestants won convincingly in the first round against stiff competition, and if they continue to maintain their lead in the second round, their path to the Parliament is assured.
In 5th Northern we find two younger contestants – Ghazi Al Rahmah and Nawaf al-Sayed competing against each other. In a diverse constituency where calls for a boycott are strong, they have had to be imaginative in promoting their candidacies, so both have been effective in using the social media. Both figures are emphasizing the need for national unity and reconciliation – which bodes very well for the new Parliament, whichever of the two wins.
In the troubled 2nd Northern constituency there are also the two young candidates Jalal Kadhim and Hussain al-Hamar who are trying to engage young people in the parliamentary process through addressing issues that concern them.
The risks of declaring your candidacy in this area at the centre of the opposition’s boycott became very obvious just a few days before the second round when Kadhim’s home was attacked, his car was torched and his family were forced to flee for their lives. This came after weeks of him receiving anonymous threats via the social media.
There are many young female candidates. In 6th Northern and 12 Northern businesswoman Rua al-Haiki and Jamila al-Sammak performed exceptionally well, both winning comfortably and positioning themselves well for a second round victory.
Journalist Zainab Abdulamir, Fawzia Zainal, physician Wafa Ajoor and Fatimah al-Asfour all came through in second place, but any of these four could easily gain ground on their rivals if they consolidate their position for the second round. Fatimah al-Asfour only came in six votes behind the sitting MP Ali al-Dirazi in 1st Northern, making Parliament well within her grasp.
We find several other youth candidates also back in second place for the next round and possibly not favourites to win, but figures like Mohammed al-Sisi (who beat Jassim al-Saeedi in 8th Southern), Nabil al-Ashiri (6th Muharraq, Mohammed Bin-Rajab (7th Northern) and Ali Ishaqi (10th Capital) have all impressed observers so far with their passionate campaigning and determination to succeed, so it is likely that some of these figures can surprise us once again by making up the necessary ground and winning a Parliamentary seat.
We wish them all the best of luck.