In Autumn 2018 Bahrainis go to the polls to choose their members of parliament and municipal councilors. This blog concentrates on the contest to win parliamentary seats across Bahrain’s four governorates and 40 constituencies. In order for the democratic process to be as successful as possible, it is vital that voters are well informed about what the candidates have to offer.
Women participation in the 2018 elections
Around 23 women have already signaled their intention of participating in the Bahrain elections, a relatively modest proportion out or around 200 individuals who have already expressed an interest in being candidates; with several weeks yet to go before formal registration.
Indeed, exactly 23 women signed up for the 2014 elections, although somewhat larger numbers had earlier expressed an interest in participation. Thus, Bahrain may not see a substantially higher proportion of women’s participation in 2018, in comparison to the previous elections. Indeed, in the municipal elections, only three women are participating so far. So far, hardly any unsuccessful women candidates from 2014 have announced their candidacy for 2014, most are relatively new and untested figures. However, several have a background as lawyers, businesswomen or social activists.
One positive factor is that we may be seeing a wider distribution of women candidates across Bahrain’s constituencies; including more women contesting in traditional areas like Muharraq, where in 2014 only one woman contested for the entire governorate. However, a candidate for the highly competitive 1st Muharraq constituency, Amirah al-Hassan has already filed a legal complaint after what she described as a particularly vicious campaign of defamation against her.
In 2014 these 23 women often found themselves competing against each other in some of the most fiercely-contested constituencies. Thus only six women made it through to the second round, with three women – Jamila al-Sammak, Fatimah al-Asfour and Rua al-Haiki – making it into Parliament. With such a low level of representation, the role of women in the 2014 Parliament was relatively modest: Fatimah al-Asfour was one of the quietest MPs, rarely speaking in sessions or sponsoring proposals.
Meanwhile, Rua al-Haiki was a somewhat divisive and controversial figure, who often ended up at loggerheads with her fellow MPs. Haiki wrestled the Women and Children’s Committee from Jamila al-Sammak with the support of Salafist and conservative MPs, and with their support often took a hostile towards progressive legislation for women, such as her position against CEDAW. This stance was surprising, given her profile as a young, moderate Shia businesswoman, who wouldn’t have been expected to ally herself with Sunni hardliners. Jamila al-Sammak, meanwhile has generally been a popular and effective MP who was active on issues of employment and health. However, it should be noted that women in the appointed Shura Council are better represented and have tended to play assertive and leading roles in pushing through progressive legislation.
While Sammak is set to stand again in her 12th Northern constituency, and Asfour has yet to announce whether she will stand again, Haiki caused a stir by relocating from her Aali constituency (6th Northern, Shia majority), to the Sunni-majority 7th Southern constituency, apparently benefitting from longstanding MP Abdullah Bin-Huwail standing down.
Among the other women who have so far expressed their intention to compete in 2018 are: Laila Mohammed al-Mahmeed (Bahrain Women’s Union), Dina al-Ludhi (human rights activist, NIHR), lawyer Amal Soleiman, Dina al-Fakhrawi, Lamia Jassim Matouq, Latifah al-Mir, businesswoman Nadeya al-Omar, Maryam Madan, Lawyer Shaima Mohammed, Zahra Hanoun.
Following the 2018 elections from five of the most competitive constituencies – 11 Aug
Here we take a look at five constituencies across Bahrain which have tended to be distinguished by high numbers of candidates and a tough contest. Even though it is very early days, and we can expect a lot more candidates to join the contest, we can already begin to see how these campaigns are shaping up and who the candidates are who we can expect to make an impact:
Areas covered: West Eker, Sanad and South Isa Town Housing blocks: 625, 626, 644, 743, 745, 815
2014 registered voters: 10,046; 2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 49.4%
Likely 2018 candidates so far: Louay Khamis, Lawyer Hamad Taqi, Atiyah Al Sinan, Ali Ishaqi (sportsman), journalist Ali al-Arabi, Khalid al-Eid (consultant), ?Nabil al-Balooshi (MP)
What’s happening in 10th Capital?
In 2014 this was by far one of the most crowded constituencies, with 15 candidates fighting to win the parliamentary seat. The contest was eventually won by Salafist cleric Nabil al-Balooshi in a second round vote. His rival, sportsman Ali Ishaqi is trying once again to win the seat. Veterans from previous elections contests like popular journalist Ali al-Arabi and Khalid al-Eid are also trying their luck once again.
The diverse composition of this constituency, including a mix of young professionals and more traditional communities, makes this anybody’s race. In 2014, two women candidates, former MP Sumayah al-Jowder and businesswoman Lulwa Mutlaq were among the most visible candidates – yet it was a Sunni cleric who nevertheless comfortably came out top in both rounds. It was noted at the time that Balooshi was a far less visible and active campaigner than many of his rivals, yet he won the seat largely on the strength of his profile at the pulpit and active lobbying (including on social media), by his supporters. Balooshi is not one of the most visible MPs, and the various proposals he sponsored have tended to be on a narrowly Islamist agenda – so it remains to be seen whether local people feel that he fulfilled their mandate – he doesn’t yet appear to have definitely declared his intention to stand as a candidate.
2014 first round vote: Nabil al-Balooshi – 877 (19.1%); Ali Ishaqi – 758 (16.5%); Adel Abduljalil – 593 (12.9%), Atiyatallah Al Sinan – 533 (11.6%), Wajih Baqer (Mithaq) – 410, Khalifa Sulaibikh – 328, M. al-Markh – 164, Lulwah Mutlaq (Watan) – 267, Salman al-Saffar – 129, Sumayah al-Jowder – 77, Noura Matouq – 70, Yassir al-Khayyat – 62, Yassir Bukhuwwah – 55, Tariq al-Tamimi – 58, Abdulhamid al-Baqishi – 12
2014 second round vote: Nabil al-Balooshi – 2151 (56.0%) Ali Ishaqi – 1692 (44.0%)
This district was an entirely new creation in 2014 from former districts of the Central Governorate. Al-Wasat in 2014 reported the destruction of campaign billboards for numerous candidates in this district. The 2014 first round turnout of nearly 50% in this diverse district was lower than in comparable constituencies, and some pundits were hoping that the intensity of the campaigning between 15 candidates may bring a wider section of the general public out. However, with some localities seeing high support for the boycott; along with other segments of society expressing their disappointment with the performance of MPs from the 2010-14 Parliament, such a statistic was perhaps not unexpected.
Areas covered: Busaiteen Housing blocks: 225, 226, 228, 229
2014 registered voters: 8,071; 2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 85.4%
Likely 2018 candidates so far: Ali Bufarsan (MP), Dr Saadi Abdullah (Al-Minbar, former MP 2002), Amirah al-Hassan, Hamad al-Kooheji, Mohammed Rafiq al-Hussaini, Mohammed al-Mutawwa (former municipal councilor), ?Isa Jassim Sayyar (or 5th Muharraq), Hamad al-Kooheji (electronic activist & businessman), Shumoukh al-Soleibeekh
What’s happening in 1st Muharraq?
This constituency reliably brings out large numbers of candidates, as well as an impressive voter turnout (85.4% in 2014). Usually most of the candidates are male conservatives, in keeping with the traditional tenor of this area of Muharraq. Thus it is encouraging to see at least two women – Amirah al-Hassan and Shumoukh al-Soleibeekh – so far express their intention to compete. In 2014 Ai Bufarsan was by far one of the most vigourous contestants; engaging local people and putting out a succession of proposals and policy positions through the media. The contest was shaken up half-way through by the withdrawal of heavyweight Islamist Adel al-Moawdeh (Asalah), who subsequently took his place in the Shura Council. Although the Al-Minbar (Muslim Brotherhood-aligned) candidate Saadi Mohammed beat him in the first round, Bufarsan won easily in the second – in an election year when political societies generally performed poorly.
In 2018, Saadi Mohammed, is trying again, alongside Mohammed al-Husseini who came a narrow third place last time. Former municipal councilor Mohammed al-Mutawwa is also a popular and experienced campaigner. In fact Mutawwa wanted to compete in 1st Muharraq in 2014, but the court refused his petition concerning his residency, and he thus competed and lost in 3rd Muharraq.
2014 first round vote: Saadi Mohammed (Minbar) – 1986 (29.8%); Ali Bufarsan – 1567 (23.6%); Mohammed al-Hussaini – 1451 (21.8%); Ahmed al-Obaidli – 416 (6.3%); Ahmed Ashir – 397; Yahya al-Majdami – 345; Mohammed al-Qalalif – 226; Ahmed Aqqab – 153; Thani Rashidan – 115
2014 second round vote: Ali Bufarsan – 3182 (54.2%) Saadi Mohammed (Minbar) – 2691 (45.8%)
Busaiteen is a proud and traditional Sunni locality on the northwest coast of Muharraq. Islamist parties have traditionally done well in this constituency. Voters will be looking for candidates who can vocally advocate their interests at a national level and support livelihoods, like the fishing industry. Pundits in 2014 cited the decline in support of Bahraini voters for established political groupings. One newspaper survey of local constituents discovered considerable frustration with the perceived performance of previous MPs, saying that there was a desire for candidates who could demonstrate that they sought “the public interest, not personal interests”. However, the 85.4% first round turnout showed a local public who were highly engaged by this contest and who felt passionate about coming out and supporting their candidates, while renewing their engagement with the political process.
Areas covered: Isa Town Housing blocks: 718, 720, 801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806, 807, 808, 810
2014 registered voters: 7,998; 2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 71.3%
Likely 2018 candidates so far: Adnan al-Maliki (Al-Asalah), Ahmed al-Amer, Jamal Ahmed Kamal, Khalid al-Sayed, Rashed al-Jalahamah, Duaij al-Dhawadi and Khalid al-Qattan (Al-Minbar)
What’s happening in 1st Southern?
This remarkable constituency always attracts a significant number of high-quality candidates. The relatively young, diverse and upwardly-mobile local population provides opportunities for more liberal and progressive candidates than elsewhere. In 2014 1st Southern was in particular a target for the leading political societies. The various factions making up the Fatah coalition were unable to agree on a single candidate, and the result was that Al-Minbar al-Islami, the National Unity Gathering (NUG) and Al-Asalah (Salafist) ended up competing against each other – and all ended up losing. Two of the losers were sitting MPs, Adnan al-Maliki and Salman al-Shaikh (the latter who had moved from a constituency in the Northern Governorate). They were beaten by young independent candidate, Khalid al-Shaer. Shaer is now competing next door in 2nd Southern, opening up the field to others. Indeed the second, third and fourth place candidates from 2014 – Adnan al-Maliki, Ahmed al-Amer and Khalid al-Qattan are all back again for another attempt.
2014 first round vote: Khalid al-Shaer – 1797 (33.1%); Adnan al-Maliki (MP Asalah) – 1198 (22.1%); Ahmed al-Amer – 984 (18.5%); Khalid al-Qattan (Minbar) – 775 (14.3%); Jehan Mohammed (NUG) – 300 (5.5%); Jaffar al-Kharaz – 140; Abdulrahman Abdullah – 85; Salman al-Shaikh (MP) – 69; Anwar Qambar – 43; Abdulghani al-Haiki – 31
2014 second round vote: Khalid al-Shaer – 3281 (67.8%) Adnan al-Maliki (MP Asalah) – 1559 (32.2%)
Moderate independent candidates have tended to perform well in this central area of Bahrain. However, the first round of the contest was distinguished by being a three-way battle between three prominent Sunni/loyalist political societies: Al-Asalah, Al-Minbar and the National Unity Gathering.
This convincing win for Khalid al-Shaer will undoubtedly leave the societies wishing they had made more effort to coordinate their campaigns and avoid splitting the vote.
Areas covered: Southern Muharraq; Hidd Housing blocks: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 128
2014 registered voters: 9,065; 2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 85.9%
What’s happening in 8th Muharraq?
The 8th Muharraq constituency tends to have a strange dynamic all of its own; often seen as a straight contest between the favoured candidates from either the north or south of the district – with a small number of figures whose names have tended to dominate the race – Abdulrahman Bu-Ali (sitting MP) Samir Khadim (former MP); Abdullah Bughamar (Al-Saff Islamic political society) – along with long-standing Asalah (Salafist society) MP Ghanem al-Buaynayn, who stood down in 2012 and was succeeded by Khadim. This is a traditional, working-class district, and tends to enjoy high voter turn-outs.
Bu-Ali has been an outspoken MP, particularly on issues of finance, the economy and government expenditure, and has been unafraid to occasionally take a differing position from his colleagues. His time as Chairman of the Finance Committee, gave him particular visibility on these issues.
Likely 2018 candidates so far: Talal Mohammed (civil servant), Abdulrahman Bu-Ali, Talal Mohammed Bin-Saud (civil servant in Parliament), Abdullah Bughummar (Al-Saff al-Islami), Samir al-Khadim (former MP), Ghanim al-Sanad, Raid al-Ahmed
2014 first round votes: Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 4197 (55.7%) Samir Khadim (MP) – 3020 (40.1%); Abdullah Bughamar (Al-Saff) – 323 (4.3%) – Contest decided outright in first round
Hidd contains a large industrial area, substantial port and customs facilities, as well as boat-building and repair industries. There is a mixed working-class population and many new residential areas. There is also a north-south divide in this locality, which commentators have noted as a strong factor in who voters get behind. Until the 2012 by-election, this district had been held by the Salafi Al-Asalah society. The 86% first round turnout is remarkable for any elections and indicates how loyal people in this area are to their preferred candidates and their sense of voting as a national obligation.
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali‟s outright 2014 win against popular MP Samir Khadim in the first round of the election was a result that surprised many and is an indicator of how demographic dynamics have shifted in this complex constituency. In the 2012 by-election to replace the resigned Asalah MP Ghanem al-Buaynayn, Samir Khadim only narrowly beat Abdulrahman Bu-Ali, with Bu-Ali gaining 47% in the second round of the vote. During the contest Bu-Ali urged voters to play a more active role in monitoring the parliamentary activity of elected MPs and censuring deputies who fail to perform effectively. Bu-Ali is a committee member for significant local youth clubs. Bu-Ali enjoyed the support of the Salafist Al-Asalah Society during past elections contests, as well as having close ties with local cultural associations, intellectuals and local elites. Bu-Ali was always seen as a strong contender. However, he did well to unseat incumbent, Samir Khadim, who enjoyed strong local support. Locals had expressed widespread local satisfaction at Khadim‟s performance as a deputy since 2012, including with his care to maintain close relations with local constituents. Khadim hails from northern Hidd, which according to pundits guaranteed him substantial support from those areas. Abdulrahman Bu-Ali is a southerner and enjoys a near guaranteed support base, in an area where kinship ties and local solidarity are crucial.
2014 registered voters: 11,323; 2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 21.7%
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
Likely 2018 candidates so far: Maryan Madan, Iyad Jabir (former municipal councilor), Dr Jamilah al-Sammak (MP), Hussain al-Khayyat (municipal councilor), Hassan Atiyyah, Mohammed Rajab, ?Mohammed Bu-Qais (former MP)
What’s happening in 12th Northern?
This constituency on Bahrain’s west coast encompasses a number of Shia majority towns, but also areas with significant traditional Sunni populations; making turnout among various communities particularly crucial. In 2010 this area was an Al-Wefaq Islamic Society stronghold, but after their 2011 walk-out, the seat was taken by Khalid Abdulaal. He was beaten in 2014 by female Shia candidate Dr. Jamila al-Sammak. She has arguably been the most consistently successful female MP in the 2014 Parliament; having been active on the agenda of employment of local Bahrainis, particularly in the medical profession, which she herself hails from. She was also a vigourous chairwoman of the Women and Children’s Committee (2014-15). However, it remains to be seen whether this translates into strong support in 2018. Along with municipal councilor Hussain al-Khayyat, she also fails the challenge of unorthodox Sunni Islamist candidate Mohammed Bu-Qais (11th Northern MP 2011-14, lost seat 2014).
First round vote: Jamila al-Sammak – 963 (46.5%); Ammad al-Sayed – 315 (15.2%); Khalid Abdulaal (MP) – 287 (13.9%); Abdulrazzaq Fardan – 245 (11.8%); Ali Baqer – 150; Ali Fardan – 111
Second round vote: Jamila al-Sammak – 1158 (71.3%) Ammad al-Sayed – 467 (28.7%)
Many localities in this district half-way down Bahrain’s west coast have seen sporadic rioting over the last three years. 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% first round turnout, given the boycott, was 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.
Working list of likely Parliament candidates – 8 August
Note that this a list of those who we are aware of who have made their intentions known so far. Some candidates haven’t been clear about which constituency they intend to stand in, or whether they will stand as independents or as representatives of political societies or informal blocs. We will try to update this information as changes are announced
Khalid al-Sulaibeekh, Adil al-Asoumi (MP since 2006), Murad Ali Murad
Ahmed Qarratah, lawyer Dina al-Ludhi (human rights activist, NIHR), Abdullah Bin-Rajab (businessman, brother of former minister Mansour Bin-Rajab), Faisal al-Aradi,
Adil Hamid (MP), Abdulwahid Ahmed Abdulrahman (consultant), ?Abdulhadi al-Marhoun (former MP)
Saleh al-Khinnah (announcement, comments, comments, comments), Abdulrahman Bumjaid (MP), Hassan Bukhamas (former MP), journalist Ammar al-Bannai (journalists’ bloc)
Nasir al-Qusair, Mohammed Hamza al-Aali, Dina al-Fakhrawi (comments), Kamil Mirza
Mohammed Dhahi (journalist), Ali al-Atish (MP since 2011, Al-Rabitah society), Fadhil Ashour, Mohammed Shubar, Jaafar al-Dirazi, Kamil Mirza, Mohammed Ashour
Yousif al-Mou’la (announcement), Osama al-Khajah (MP), Yousif al-Majid (announcement), Adel Abbas, Affaf al-Mousawi, journalist Abbas al-Mughani
Dr Majid al-Asfour (MP), Zahra Hanoun, Kadhim al-Awainati
Mohamed Milad (MP), Ibrahim al-Asfour (head or Driving Instructors society)
Louay Khamis(statement), Lawyer Hamad Taqi, Atiyah Al Sinan, Ali Ishaqi (sportsman), journalist Ali al-Arabi, Khalid al-Eid (consultant)
Ali Bufarsan (MP), Dr Saadi Abdullah (Al-Minbar, former MP 2002), Amirah al-Hassan, Hamad al-Kooheji, Mohammed Rafiq al-Hussaini, Mohammed al-Mutawwa (former municipal councilor), ?Isa Jassim Sayyar (or 5th Muharraq), Hamad al-Kooheji (electronic activist & businessman), Shumoukh al-Soleibeekh
Ibrahim al-Nafeei (social activist), Ibrahim al-Hamadi (MP), Mohammed Isa, journalist Mohammed Naji, Laila Mohammed al-Mahmeed (Bahrain Women’s Union)
?Isa al-Kooheji (MP)
Rashid al-Qassab (statement), Abdulhamid al-Meer, Nawaf Faraj, Mohammed al-Jowder (MP), Mahmoud al-Mahmoud (former MP), Ali al-Muqla (was MP in 7th Muharraq, Asalah), Hisham al-Rumaithi (head of religious institute), Mohammed al-Faraj, ?Isa Abul-Fatah (Asalah), Khalid Bu-Anq (former municipal councilor), Sami al-Shaer, Mohammed al-Dakhil, (5th Muharraq profile)
Lawyer Shaima Mohammed, Hassan Ali Abdullah, lawyer Mirfat Janahi, ?Mohammed al-Madhi (MP)
Sabah al-Dossary (municipal councilor), lawyer Hassan Ismail (Progressive League/Al-Minbar al-Taqaddumi), Rashid Jalal, engineer Nabil al-Mahmoud, Abdullah al-Bastaki, Abdullah al-Quoud, Anis Atiq, Rashid al-Binzayid (announcement), Ammar Qambar (son of MP Sami al-Qambar), ?Hamid Sultan
Talal Mohammed (civil servant), Abdulrahman Bu-Ali(statement), Talal Mohammed Bin-Saud (civil servant in Parliament), Abdullah Bughummar (Al-Saff al-Islami), Samir al-Khadim (former MP), Ghanim al-Sanad, Raid al-Ahmed (announcement)
Kaltham al-Haiki (activist, statement, announcement), ?Fatimah al-Asfour, Mohammed Abdulwahhab, Fadhel al-Asfour, Fadhil Abdalwahid, Mohammed al-Asfour
Fadhil Jassim(Al-Nahdah al-Wataniyah, statement on youth), Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh (MP), Faisal al-Misbah, Mohammed Fatil (lawyer, National List – Al-Minbar al-Taqaddumi)
Hamad al-Dossary (MP)
Fawaz al-Amin (businessman), Ibrahim Al Shehab (civil servant, announcement), Ghazi Al Rahmah (MP), Ammar Awachi (economist), Anwar al-Mohammed (former candidate 7th Southern), Salman Mohsin Abdullah, engineer Nidal al-Shomali, Sh. Mohammed Saeed al-Aradi (statement), lawyer Amal Soleiman,
Mohammed Khalil (retired), ?Ali al-Aradi (MP), Mohammed Bu-Shuhri, Jamil al-Rowei
Abdullah Ashour (municipal councilor & journalist), Al-Adaa Ruqayah al-Ghasrah (sportswoman), businessman Hamid Abdulridha, Falah al-Haddad, Sh. Maitham al-Daghas, Abdullah al-Kooheji (banker), Abduljalil Salman, Fadhel Ashour, Lamia Jassim Matouq
Sh. Majid al-Majid, Fathi Alawi (businessman & youth activist), Ali Fairouz, Al-Sayyid Majid al-Hashimi
?Isa Turki (MP), Khalid al-Munasir, Mohammed Abulshouk (municipal councilor), Dr. Abdullah al-Dhawadi (NUG, communications specialist)
Abdalhamid al-Najjar (MP), Hussain Samih, Yousif Zainal (former MP, lawyer, lost seat 2014, close to Al-Minbar al-Taqaddumi), Hassan Ali al-Nasr
Mohammed al-Ammadi (MP), Bassim al-Maliki (civil servant), banker Khalid al-Hassan, Mohammed al-Dhain, Abdullah al-Bakri, Hisham Rabiah (businessman & social activist), Jamil Mulla Hassan,
Jamal Dawoud (MP), Ali al-Fadhli (announcement), Mohammed Buhamoud (head of northern governorate municipal council), Jaafar al-Hamiri (teacher)
Maryan Madan (announcement), Iyad Jabir (former municipal councilor), Dr Jamilah al-Sammak (MP), Hussain al-Khayyat (municipal councilor), Hassan Atiyyah, Mohammed Rajab, ?Mohammed Bu-Qais (former MP)
Adnan al-Maliki (Al-Asalah), Ahmed al-Amer, Jamal Ahmed Kamal(statement), Khalid al-Sayed, Rashed al-Jalahamah, Duaij al-Dhawadi and Khalid al-Qattan (Al-Minbar),
Khalid al-Shaer (MP for 1st Southern), Mohammed al-Ahmed (MP), Isa al-Qadhi (former MP), Mohammed al-Zayani
Adel al-Yahya (statement, statement), Ahmed al-Ansari (head of municipal council, Al-Asalah – current Asalah MP Abdulhalim Murad standing down), Mohammed al-Rifa’i (?NUG), Dr Mohammed al-Houseini (NUG)
Lawyer Dr Rashid Al Binali, Salman al-Salman (civil servant, activist, announcement), Mohammed al-Maarifi (MP), Ali al-Zayed (former MP), businessman Bassem al-Mahmeed, Anis Bumutawwa (social activist, Al-Minbar (or 6th??)), Anas Bumtaia (Minbar), Faisal Ibrahim Albu-Falah
Khalifah al-Ghanem (MP), Essam al-Khayyat
Nadhim Hashim, Dr Mohammed al-Kuwaiti (NUG, former military), Lawyer Ibrahim al-Mannai, Jamal Buhassan (Muharraq MP), ?Anas Buhindi (MP, Salafist cleric), businesswoman Nadeya al-Omar
Lawyer Saad al-Dossary, Rua al-Haiki (MP from 6th Northern), Ali Majid al-Noaimi (son of education minister) (MP Abdullah Bin-Huwail standing down)
Badr al-Dossary (municipal councilor), Muhsin al-Bakri (MP)
Khalid al-Dossary (announcement), ?Ahmed al-Mulla (Parliament Chairman)
National Unity Gathering returns to the electoral fray – 29 July
The National Unity Gathering (NUG) emerged out of the loyalist response to the February 2011 protests, led by Abdullatif al-Mahmoud. It is a primarily Sunni movement which for a couple of years was one of the most visible political forces in Bahrain’s society. It was one of the societies which signed up to the Fateh loyalist coalition which supported the status quo, in opposition to calls for change and even revolution by opposition groups. “Fateh” refers to the Al-Fateh Mosque, where many of the major loyalist demonstrations were held in 2011.
However, the NUG performed disappointingly in the 2014 parliamentary elections, failing to win a single seat, despite fielding nine candidates. Part of the problem was that the Sunni political forces under the Fateh banner failed to agree among themselves on a common agenda, or on which candidates to put forward in the most promising constituencies. The result was that the most prominent candidates from Sunni factions like Al-Minbar, Al-Asalah, the NUG, Al-Wasat and Al-Mithaq often ended up ranged against each other. However, a major problem was the collapse in support for organized political societies, which were seen to have pursued their own ideological agendas in the previous Parliament, rather than focusing on bread-and-butter issues which affected citizens.
Very little was heard from the NGU for the next three years. However, in spring the movement did begin becoming increasingly visible on social and political issues, announcing its intention to stand in the 2018 elections. As of May, the NUG said that it planned to put forward around three to five candidates, as well as backing a number of independent figures. A number of candidates, such as Mohammed al-Rifai (3rd Southern), have already announced that they are standing on behalf of the NUG. In July the NUG issued a statement warning against plans to cut pension benefits. However, the NUG’s main challenge may be in convincing voters that it remains a credible and relevant movement in a much-changed political climate.
Other former components of the Fateh coalition seemed less sure of their approach to the elections. As of May 2018 Ahmed al-Binali said his Al-Wasat society hadn’t yet formally discussed its approach, and complained about the halt in funding from the Ministry of Justice. The Islamic Shura society also in May announced that it was closing down. Abdulrahman Abdulsalam, the society’s chairman, cited the movement’s lack of activity as the principal reason for closure. Meanwhile Al-Mithaq al-Amal al-Watani society planned to put forward four candidates.
National Awakening Bloc – July 27
In late July a new electoral bloc was announced, promising to be the largest parliamentary bloc in Bahrain’s history. It is calling itself the National Awakening Bloc. Fadhil al-Jassim, who made the announcement said that the list included businessmen, economists, human rights advocates, religious figures, lawyers and doctors. Jassim said that the bloc wasn’t limited by geography or sect, but aimed to include all Bahrainis and could contest the elections in all constituencies – something which to date few societies have aspired to do.
MPs Hamad al-Dossary & Jalal Kadhim line up to contest elections – July 24
Two young independent MPs from the Northern Governorate who have often acted jointly on key issues, Hamad al-Dossary and Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh have announced their intention to compete for the 2018 Parliament. Dossary is a Sunni MP representing the Sunni-majority constituency of 3rd Northern, including the towns of Budaya and Jasra along the northwest coast. Kadhim is a progressive Shia MP from the 2nd Northern constituency centred around Bani Jamra, Diraz and Markh – Shia-majority areas which lay at the heart of the post-2011 unrest. Kadhim in particular distinguished himself as an energetic candidate and MP, campaigning on standards of living issues, public services and improved facilities for his constituency. The issue of improving jobs prospects for Bahrainis was also one of his central themes. Kadhim won despite very low turnout in this constituency amidst the opposition’s boycott. It remains to be seen whether he can win widespread support in 2018. Fadhil Jassim has declared his intention to compete against Kadhim in 2nd Northern.
Dossary has often campaigned on pro-youth issues. In the 2014 contest, Hamad contested against and beat incumbent MP Hassan al-Dossary. Hamad had originally supported Hassan’s efforts to become an MP, but in 2014 Hamad benefitted from widespread public sentiments that their MP hadn’t done enough to lobby on housing provision and other key issues.
Fierce competition gaining pace in 1st Southern – July 23
1st Southern (Isa Town) has tended to be one of the most fiercely contested constituencies. Its young current MP Khaled al-Shaer won his seat on strong local support, although his fiery temper has often made him a controversial and combative MP. As of mid-July, around six MPs had announced their intention to compete in this constituency: Former Sunni Islamist MP Adnan al-Maliki (Al-Asalah), Ahmed al-Amer, Jamal Ahmed, Khalid al-Sayyed, Rashed al-Jalahamah, Daeej al-Dhawaidi and Khalid al-Qattan (Al-Minbar).
In November 2014 Shaer beat the incumbent MP Maliki relatively easily in the second round – 3281 votes, to 1559 votes. Ahmed al-Amer came close behind Maliki in the first round with 984 votes, while Khalid al-Qattan came fourth with 775, comfortably beating the National Unity Gathering candidate Jehan Mohammed, who gained 300 in a crowded field of 10 candidates.
Isa Town, with its diverse working-class and professional demographic has been a favoured constituency for younger and liberal candidates, although it is also favoured by Sunni Islamist figures. Al-Asalah’s Adnan al-Maliki has already been campaigning vigourously, recently organizing an event alongside other potential candidates.