1st Muharraq

Areas covered: Busaiteen

Number of candidates: 5

Likelihood of going to second round: 60% 

Housing blocks: 225, 226, 228, 229

2014 registered voters: 8,071 (2014)

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 85.4%

2014 second round vote: Ali Bufarsan – 3182 (54.2%); Saadi Mohammed (Minbar) – 2691 (45.8%)

2014 first round votes: Saadi Mohammed (Minbar) – 1986 (29.8%); Ali Bufursan – 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

Voter demographic

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.

This is invariably a strongly competitive constituency, often with a substantial number of high-calibre candidates; often a mixture of popular Islamist figures, local luminaries and younger activists.

Pundits have noted the decline in support of Bahraini voters for established political groupings. In the past this constituency has been a fierce battleground for leading Sunni societies like Minbar and Asalah, although candidates in 2018 are formally standing as independents. One 2014 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”. 

Candidate outline

This constituency reliably brings out large numbers of candidates, as well as an impressive voter turnout (85.4% in 2014). The 2014 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. Ali Bufarsan in 2014 was one of the most active campaigners, with his campaign promises and statements appearing almost daily in the press. As an MP he tended to take relatively conservative positions. 

Although the Al-Minbar (Muslim Brotherhood-aligned) candidate Saadi Mohammed beat him in the first round, independent candidate Ali Bufarsan won easily in the second – in an election year when political societies generally performed poorly. Saadi Mohammed isn’t standing this time around, despite earlier indications that he would be competing. 

Former municipal councilor Mohammed al-Mutawwa is an experienced campaigner from municipal and parliamentary elections. He tried to stand in 1st Muharraq in 2014, but his court petition was rejected, so he campaigned unsuccessfully in 3rd Muharraq instead. Having been the constituency’s municipal councilor for two consecutive terms, the media has touted Mutawwa as one of the strongest candidates here. 

Isa al-Hassan is another visible candidate who has kept up a steady stream of statements about his positions in the media. Young candidate, social media activist Hamad al-Kooheji, has been described as worth watching. Meanwhile, cleric Mohammed al-Hussaini also enjoys a strong local support base. Hussaini took legal action after claims were circulated online that he was connected to the banned Syrian terrorist organization, Jabhat al-Nusra.

The 2018 campaign has ended up being dominated by five men, despite the earlier prominence of two female candidates, Amira Hassan and Shumoukh Sulaibikh, which would have been a significant change for this very traditional Muharraq constituency. 

Ali Bufarsan – Incumbent MP

During the 2014 elections Bufarsan established himself as a remarkable candidate in a highly competitive constituency. He has continued to be an energetic MP with views on a broad range of issues and a role in several committees. As head of the Committee for Youth and Sport, Bufarsan has championed higher investment in sports and activities for young people. 

Bufarsan was behind a number of innovative proposals in early 2015, including opening a branch Bahrain University in Muharraq; support for children with autism and other debilitating diseases; rights for healthcare for Bahrainis studying abroad; and a proposal for a ministry responsible for planning and research. Although in March 2015 a strong majority of MPs voted against increasing levels of public debt to BD 7bn, Bufarsan was one of a small number of figures to stood by this position, with only seven MPs voting to reject this measure during the second vote on 2 July 2015.

In early 2015 Bufarsan was reported to be part of a new “Bahrain National Bloc”, this was confirmed in October 2015 when the bloc was formally announced. At the same time, Bufarsan applied to leave the Services Committee and join the Finance Committee.

His candidature was approved in a key vote by MPs which saw radical changes to the membership of the Finance Committee and the ousting of three members, including former Chairman Isa al-Kooheji. The National Bahrain Bloc, in coordination with other groupings of MPs, appears to have been instrumental in enforcing these changes. 

Bufursan told Al-Watan newspaper during his 2014 campaign that “people’s aspirations are focused on improving standards of living and the housing issue. They didn’t sense any important accomplishments from the previous Parliament in these matters”. Bufursan has emphasized the “solutions” he possesses for improving healthcare facilities and for assisting those in society with special needs, such as the elderly, widows, orphans and the disabled. His 2014 slogan was “Together we can”. Bufursan emphasized the importance of support for agriculture and fishing. He complained that fishermen in the Busaiteen area lacked any kind of support, during comments to Al-Ayam. @alialbufersen

Mohammed al-Mutawwa 

Mutawwa has called for the 2018 Parliament to focus primarily on economic themes in order to benefit citizens and the nation. He emphasized the importance of improving standards of living. Mutawwa said that Bahrain had many of the necessary attributes for encouraging trade and investment, but that more needed to be done to ensure necessary legislation to create the most favourable possible investment environment.

Ahead of the 2014 elections, Al-Mutawwa – a municipal councilor for eight years – went to court after the constituency boundary changes were announced, with the intention of changing his address to the 1st Muharraq district. However, the court refused his petition, so he has been compelled to compete in 3rd Muharraq. This was the result of two housing blocs where Al-Mutawwa resides (227, 223) being transferred from 1st Muharraq to 3rd Muharraq as part of the constituency boundary changes.

Mutawwa in his 2014 campaign adopted the slogan ‘together’ (ma’an), stating “we are participants in the whole process. The deputy and the voter are joined by a shared purpose”. Al-Mutawwa called for changing the 1976 housing law which he said would “solve the problem” because he said the housing crisis was a matter of “decisions not distribution, the land is there and the Khaleeji support is there”. Al-Mutawwa (2014): “I observed shortcomings in the legislative process and also in the oversight of this work. Both processes require expertise and attention and greater public participation in issues which concern them”.

Isa al-Hassan 

Hassan has been referred to by the media as the “Lion of Busaiteen”. Hassan has been one of the more consistently visible candidates, with regular statements appearing in the media. He also mentions having a radio channel “the Lion’s Voice” with which he engages with local people. He has stressed that one of his major priorities is improving support for pensioners. Owing to his lack of funds, he has used his own home as his “campaign tent”, meaning that he was only able to invite 20 hand-picked figures to his campaign opening.

Hamad al-Kooheji

Hamad Al Kooheji is a social media activist. He told the media that he aims to serve the biggest number of people possible, without segregation or discrimination, criticizing candidates who put themselves forward without having close attachments and commitments with local constituents. He described his elections plan as “realistic and comprehensive”. Hamad stressed Parliament’s oversight role of monitoring government performance and holding officials to account; while also promising that he would work to improve standards of living and address issues like health and the economy.  

Dr. Mohammed al-Hussaini 

Al-Hussaini is a local cleric. Although Al-Hussaini received little national media coverage during the 2014 contest, he was touted as a popular local figure and strong contestant. 

Hussaini has been relatively more visible during the 2018 campaign. At the end of October he submitted a complaint against an (unnamed) rival candidate. Hussaini told the media that his rival had posted false rumours about his desire to change the constitution and alleging links to the Syrian terrorist entity Jabhat al-Nusra. @mral7usaini

2nd Muharraq

Areas covered: Muharraq central

Number of candidates: 9

Likelihood of going to second round: 85% 

Housing blocks: 203, 205, 206, 209, 221, 222

2014 registered voters: 7,563

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 79.5%

2014 second round vote: Ibrahim al-Hamadi – 2761 (51.4%); Abdulmunim al-Eid – 2610 (48.6%)

2014 first round votes: Ibrahim al-Hamadi – 1761 (30.3%); Abdulmunim al-Eid – 1550 (26.6%); Wahid al-Dossary – 1251 (21.5%); Salim Rajab (NUG) – 524 (9.0%); Mohammed al-Buainain – 357; Abdulrahman Bin-Zaiman – 195; Ahmed al-Jowder – 127; Khalid Bu-Jiri – 54

Voter demographic

This constituency lies in the densely-populated central town of Muharraq and in geographical size is one of the smallest constituencies in Bahrain. This area has tended to favour Sunni Islamist candidates. Media surveys of voters have found voter priorities in this constituency to include housing, living standards, education and improving public infrastructure. 

Candidate outline

In the 2014 Parliament Ibrahim al-Hamadi has not been especially visible as an MP in submitting proposals and questions and speaking in open sessions. He is thus seen as someone who can be challenged by strong rival contestants. Mohammed Al Sinan as head of the Muharraq Municipal Council could be seen as a heavyweight rival to Hammadi.

In the 2014 elections, only one woman registered as a candidate for the whole of Muharraq. Thus it is good to see this constituency in 2018 containing two high-calibre female candidates with a strong civil society record. Huda al-Mahmoud and Laila al-Mahmeed have been getting increasing amounts of media attention. Laila is a prominent member of the Bahrain Women’s Union, while Huda is described as a social activist and the head of an institution for protecting victims of domestic violence.

Bashar Fakhro is proving himself to be a serious and focused candidate. Mohammed Naji is a popular young journalist, and Ibrahim al-Nafeei is also an active local figure. With several of these nine candidates possessing strong prospects to perform respectably, it would seem a safe prediction that this race will go to a second round.

Ibrahim al-Hammadi – Incumbent MP

As an MP Ibrahim al-Hammadi’s priorities have been chiefly with economic issues close to the hearts of local constituents, like developing local markets and supporting the Muharraq fishing industry. One of Al-Hammadi’s most notable parliamentary interventions was during the 19 May 2015 debate on the fishing industry in which he spoke passionately about the need to support local fishermen.

Hammadi has repeatedly spoken out about the need to develop traditional markets. In May 2015 he challenged the Minister of Works in Parliament about why more wasn’t being done to revive these markets. Hammadi voted against the State Budget during the 2 July 2015 parliamentary session.

Hammadi has been a vocal advocate for greater investment in youth and sports, particularly with a view to keeping young people productively occupied and constructively using their energies. He has spoken passionately and from personal experience about the need to provide support for those with special needs and disabilities. Since the early days of the Parliament, it was being reported that Hammadi may be joining a proposed parliamentary alliance called the Bahrain National Bloc. This was formalized in October 2015 at the beginning of the new parliamentary year.

Laila Mohammed al-Mahmeed

Mahmeed is a member of the Bahrain Women’s Union. She said in a media statement that she had decided to stand after being disappointed by the performance of the 2014 Parliament. “The failure of current deputies doesn’t mean that new deputies will fail;” she said. Huda stressed the centrality of Bahrain’s economic Vision 2030 for taking Bahrain forward “as a single family”. She told the media that there was more to be done to address the national housing shortage, stating that providing proper housing was a priority.

Bashar Jassim Fakhro 

Fakhro has emerged as a vigorous and thoughtful candidate who has been regularly releasing statements about policy positions through the media. Jassim stated that the priority for the coming parliament is the economy, the nation’s financial standing and the wellbeing of citizens, particularly after several years of difficult economic conditions. He has emphasized the need for a fiscal balance in order to lower government expenditure, while ensuring that citizens rights and benefits are protected. 

Falhro has urged Parliament to commit itself to supporting sustainable development goals. In other statements published in the media he noted the importance of the elections for supporting Bahrain’s democratic progress. Fakhro is standing as an independent, although he is affiliated with the non-political Youth Pioneers Society. He has stressed that in the elections: “Victory should be for the nation and not the candidate.”

Huda al-Mahmoud

Huda has demonstrated a personal interest in legislation related to families and domestic violence. In media statements Huda has called for greater efforts to protect families from violence and monitor the government’s implementation of the domestic violence law. She is the head of an institution for protecting victims of domestic violence, Dar a-Aman.

Mohammed Al Sinan

Sinan between 2014 and 2018 was head of the Muharraq Municipal Council. His brother Najam, who was also a municipal councilor is competing next door in 3rd Muharraq.

In early November a video was circulated claiming that Sinan was violating election rules by displaying campaign posters in a hospital waiting area. Sinan issued an angry response saying that the images in the video had been deliberately set up to discredit him by rival campaigns.

Abdulrahman Bin-Zaiman 

Former headmaster Bin-Zaiman said he decided to compete in the 2014 elections after the withdrawal of the prominent candidate Ali Ahmed. He cited a particular interest in fighting corruption. Bin-Zaiman, a member of Al-Mithaq, had been touted in 2014 to compete on a list as part of the Al-Fateh Coalition. However, he eventually registered as an independent.

In 2018 he issued a statement emphatically denying any connection to Mithaq or other political societies, saying that he had resigned from Mithaq more than a year previously.

Ibrahim al-Nafeei

Nafeei has been described by the media as a young social activist. He has stressed the importance of bringing more young people into Parliament, under the slogan: “A vote for the youth is a vote for Muharraq”

Mohammed Naji

Journalist Mohammed Naji has stressed the importance of cultivating a better-qualified Parliament. He criticized current MPs for failing to use their powers for improvind standards of living for citizens. He pledged that he would prioritize the interests of local Muharraq citizens.

Saleh al-Noaimi

3rd Muharraq

Areas covered: Muharraq central, Qalali

Number of candidates: 6

Likelihood of going to second round: 60% 

Housing blocks: 202, 204, 208, 210, 223, 224, 227

2014 registered voters: 7,563

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 77.6%

2014 second round vote: Jamal Buhassan – 2568 (52.3%); Ahmed Al Binali (Wasat) – 2341 (47.7%)

First round votes: Jamal Buhassan – 1219 (21.6%); Ahmed Al Binali (Wasat) – 1061 (18.8%); Mohammed al-Mutawwa – 1032 (18.3%); Adel Bu-Anq – 693 (12.3%); Mohammed Murad – 631 (11.2%); Abdulnasir al-Mahmeed (Asalah) – 555 (9.8%); Yusuf al-Awadhi – 176; Abdulrahman Fakhro – 170; Mohammed Ahmedi – 61; Abdallah Saad – 52

Voter demographic

This is a staunchly loyalist area sprawling across the heart of Muharraq island. The district expanded as part of the 2014 boundary changes to take in two blocs from the 1st Muharraq constituency and parts of Qalali.

Candidate outline

During the 2014 elections, 3rd Muharraq was one of the most competitive constituencies, with 11 candidates fighting it out. With incumbent MP Jamal Buhassan having moved his constituency to the Southern Governorate and veteran campaigner Mohammed al-Mutawwa relocating to 1st Muharraq, the campaign in 2018 is looking somewhat more low-key, with fewer well-known names. However, municipal councilor Najam Al Sinan and Mohammed al-Olaiwi are emerging as serious campaigners. In early November there was a bout of vandalism against campaign posters in the area, with advertizing for Mohammed Isa and Mohammed al-Olaiwi being burnt or defaced.

Najm Al Sinan

Sinan between 2014-18 was a Muharraq municipal councillor; his brother Mohammed Al Sinan was head of the Municipal Council and is now competing in 2nd Muharraq. A third brother, Atiyatallah Al Sinan was a former candidate in a Capital constituency and had been touted to be competing again, but pulled out for personal reasons. 

Mohammed al-Olaiwi

In media statements Olaiwi has called for the ammendment of pariamentary procedures for making it a more effective body for acting in the interests of the public. Aliawi has stressed the importance of promoting economic development, under the slogal “real development with popular participation”. He has also emphasized his support for women playing a strong role in decision-making processes.

Mohammed Isa

Isa has called for supporting young people and placing them at the heart of the legislative process. He also stressed the need for improved benefits and services for the elderly

Ahmed al-Kuwaiti

Isa Musaifar

Lubna al-Hassan

4th Muharraq

Areas covered: Muharraq central

Number of candidates: 3

Likelihood of going to second round: 30% 

Housing blocks: 207, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217

2014 registered voters: 7,904

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 78.7%

2014 contest decided by outright win in the first round of voting.

2014 first round votes: Isa al-Kooheji (MP) – 3022 (50.8%); Rima Halal – 887 (14.9%); Abdullah al-Aynati (NUG) – 675 (11.4%); Hamad al-Mearaj – 590 (9.9%); Majid al-Atawi – 196; Mohammed al-Murbati – 422; Mohammed Khayami – 154;

Voter demographic

These urban areas of Muharraq island would be expected to favour an independent loyalist candidate. However a dense patchwork of local communities have to be taken into account; Hawala, Bahrani, Ajam and tribal Arabian. Thus, we find a slightly more cosmopolitan range of candidates than in other central parts of Muharraq, including the only female candidate in Muharraq, Rima Halal.

This is one of the oldest areas of Muharraq island and so contains historically important sites. There are many critical social issues needing addressing including poverty, unemployment and poor quality of some older housing. Commentators in the past have noted the difficulty of predicting this contest because of the lack of a clear “political ideology” among this diverse community. Liberals, progressives, Salafists, and Muslim Brotherhood supporters can all be found here.

Candidate outline

In 2014 long-standing MP Isa al-Kooheji easily fought off several strong alternative candidates. This time around, for a long time, nobody appeared willing to stand against him. However, at the last minute, two other candidates joined the contest, including Mohammed Khayami who contested against Kooheji in 2014, but only won a tiny 154 votes. This would appear to be one of Bahrain’s least competitive constituencies.

Isa Abduljabbar al-Kooheji – Incumbent 

On key issues of concern, like housing and health fees, he is often outspoken and articulate in criticizing the positions of Government ministers. Al-Kooheji has spoken out strongly about wastage of government revenues and the failure of ministers to address issues of poor financial administration. Although Al-Kooheji’s positions are broadly in line with the consensus of other MPs, he will sometimes take a differing viewpoint on controversial issues. For example, he defended the rights of employers not to be forced to prefer Bahraini candidates. As a businessman himself, Al-Kooheji has consistently advocated the cause of Bahraini businesses. 

During June 2015 Al-Kooheji, as Chairman of the Parliament Finance Committee was a pivotal figure in the negotiations with the Government for revising the 2015-16 State Budget to ensure the inclusion of services, welfare payments and projects of fundamental importance to the public. When the final Budget draft was put to the vote in Parliament on 2 July 2015 Al-Kooheji played a central role in rallying the support of MPs for the document and ensuring that the significant achievements of this Budget were recognized. During this special parliamentary session Al-Kooheji called on MPs to vote in favour, citing the increase in benefits to citizens enshrined in the document and the need to rein in Government spending.

Although an overwhelming majority of MPs early on in the Parliament rejected additional Government borrowing, Al-Kooheji was one of the first MPs to realize that further borrowing would be needed to avoid the radical curtailment of services to citizens. Although three-quarters of MPs in the March 2015 vote rejected an increase in the debt ceiling (despite Al-Kooheji urging them not to reject this); by the time of the 2 July 2015 vote on the same issue, a comfortable majority of MPs voted in support of increasing the debt ceiling to BD 7bn.

However, in October 2015 at the beginning of the new parliamentary term, the big story was a coup launched by a number of MPs enforcing radical changes on the membership of the Finance Committee. Al-Kooheji and two of his colleagues, Al-Shaer and Al-Qaseer, were forced out of the Committee and Abdulrahman Bu-Ali was instated as the Chairman. Al-Kooheji moved to the Services Committee. In the wake of these parliamentary tensions, a lot less was heard from Al-Kooheji going into 2017 and 2018.

In 2014 he won his seat outright in the first round with over 50% of the vote. Al-Kooheji is one of the more effective users of the social media in the Parliament. In May 2015, Al-Kooheji came out in support of controversial measures for transferring government lands to the Housing Ministry for new housing projects. In late May Al-Kooheji proposed a 200BD monthly allowance for women over the age of 40 who were widows, divorcees or without the support of a family. During the 2010-2014 Parliament, Al-Kooheji was a member of the “Bahrain Independents” Bloc, along with current MPs Al-Asoumi, Bin-Huwail and Al-Mulla. @isaalkooheji

Mohammed Khayami 

Khayami in 2014 simply told journalists that his campaign platform was the same as the one he’d put forward in 2010, but promised to “wipe out” his rival candidates.

Hisham al-Awadhi

5th Muharraq

Areas covered: Northeast Muharraq; Amwaj Islands; Qalali

Number of candidates: 11

Likelihood of going to second round: 95% 

Housing blocks: 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 263, 264, 265, 266, 269

2014 registered voters: 7,199

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 87.6%

2014 second round vote: Mohammed al-Jowder – 3358 (61.2%); Khalid Bu-Anq – 2129 (38.8%)

2014 first round votes: Mohammed al-Jowder – 1252 (20.5%); Khalid Bu-Anq – 1245 (20.3%); Mahmoud al-Mahmoud (MP) – 1020 (16.7%); Muhammed al-Dakhil – 653 (10.7%); Mohammed al-Faraj – 583 (9.5%); Abdulaziz al-Majid – 504; Jamal Saad – 402; Sami al-Shaer (NUG) – 309; Ahmed al-Mannai – 90; Ibrahim Ali – 62

Voter demographic

Lying to the northeast corner of Muharraq, this large constituency has the smallest number of registered voters in the Governorate, although it is one of five Muharraq constituencies with between 7,000 and 8,000 voters.  Much of this constituency is built on recently reclaimed land, including the trendy Amwaj islands. As a result, the population is predominantly middle class and cosmopolitan. However, some of the southern parts of this constituency include working class areas of Qalali.

An Al-Watan newspaper 2014 survey for 5th Muharraq found widespread frustration amongst younger people in this area over poor housing provision and a perceived lack of action on the issues that matter by previous parliaments. There were also concerns about lack of suitable jobs for young graduates and lack of activities for younger people, while others noted the necessity of doing more for “marginalized” and disadvantaged constituents, like widows, unemployed, the elderly and those with special needs.

Candidate outline

Former MP Mahmoud al-Mahmoud, who suffered a surprising defeat in 2014 (failing to make it into the second round), is looking to win his seat back from current incumbent Mohammed al-Jowder. It is difficult to gauge how much support Jowder retains. However, he was one of the more visible MPs in the 2014 Parliament, often speaking out on local issues. Asalah MP Ali al-Muqla had for a while been touted to stand in this constituency which would have made the competition even more intense. 

With so much attention likely to be focused on these two parliamentary heavyweights, Jowder and Mahmoud, it remains to be seen whether the remaining nine candidates enjoy sufficient local support for any of them to make it into the second round. Mohammed al-Faraj unsuccessfully contested this seat in 2014. Two other previous candidates who had expressed an interest in standing; municipal councilor Khalid Bu-Anq and Sami al-Shaer, appear to have been deterred from registering by the strength of the competition. This will be a difficult contest for female candidates, Noora al-Khatir and Hanadi al-Jowder, to make a strong impression.

Mohammed al-Jowder – Incumbent MP

Al-Jowder in Parliament demonstrated a willingness to be outspoken and question Government policies where he felt that the interests of his constituents had been neglected. Al-Jowder is an articulate figure on national security issues. He regularly comments about regional affairs and the need to counter terrorism at home and abroad. 

On several issues being voted on by the Parliament – like the Government Action Plan and employment restrictions on ex-military personnel – Al-Jowder was outspoken about the nature of these proposals, but tended to vote in line with the majority of his colleagues. However, Al-Jowder voted against the State Budget during the 2 July 2015 session and during the same session was one of a minority of MPs voting against an increase in the debt ceiling.

During Al-Jowder’s 2014 election campaign he highlighted an imaginative range of issues. He has continued to pursue many of these issues, for example, the importance of providing care for the disabled and elderly. Al-Jowder in 2014 proposed opening the first academy of its kind in Bahrain for the disabled. He said such support would help the disabled play a greater role in society, which in turn would benefit the national economy.

Al-Jowder stressed the importance of investing in human capital and achieving social justice. Al-Jowder promised to set up the first local “majlis” in his district dedicated to hearing the concerns and aspirations of young people, in order that appropriate parts of Bahrain’s administration could be made to hear these concerns. @m_h_aljowder_

Mahmoud al-Mahmoud – Former MP

Mahmood al Mahmood has been scathing about the performance of the 2014 Parliament, asking why MPs got upset when criticized about their performance. He said that such constructive criticism was necessary for improving parliamentary performance, commenting that “The performance of current deputies has not lived up to public expectations. The concerns of citizens have only increased”. 

In 2014, despite being the incumbent MP, Mahmoud was unexpectedly beaten into third place, winning only 16.7% of the vote. Mahmoud in 2014: “Those who regard the previous Parliament as weak are wrong. Deputies were able to prevent the downfall [of the Parliament] during the crisis Bahrain has undergone, making this an exceptional assembly.” Mahmoud was the chairman of the “independents block” in the previous Parliament and deputy chairman for the Financial Committee. Mahmoud told Al-Watan newspaper that the 2014 revised constituency borders in Muharraq had resulted in more sensible arrangements and would improve chances for the election of “competent” deputies.

Al-Mahmoud during his 2014 campaign talked about the importance of partnership between the private and public sectors to address the housing issue, citing the example of Diyar Muharraq which is to provide 20,000 housing units. Al-Mahmoud is one of the more familiar contenders in using the social media, for example, running a Q&A session via Twitter.

Khaled Bu-Anq

Bu-Anq, who served as a municipal councilor for 4th Muharraq, in 2014 launched a strong attack against the Muharraq Municipality for “targeting the people of Qalali”, claiming that measures had been taken by the Municipality “for pure electoral purposes”. He said that issues relating to agriculture and local businesses had existed for years, “so why had punitive action only been taken now?” Bu-Anq has participated in multiple rounds of elections campaigns. He narrowly lost to Mohammed al-Jowder in the first round of the 2014 elections, but was beaten convincingly in the second round.

Ibrahim Bucheeri (Minbar)

Bucheeri is reportedly just one of two candidates formally backed by Al-Minbar al-Islami, a society which in the past was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The other Minbar candidate is incumbent MP Mohammed al-Amadi (10th Northern).

Noora Rashed al-Khatir

Noora as she announced her candidacy stressed the importance of national unity and national participation in the political process. She mentioned her aspiration to get involved in legislation serving the interests of women and young people.Noora has argued for greater public participation in the reform process in order to address the challenges which Bahrain faces.

Nawaf Faraj

Faraj as he announced his candidacy acknowledged that his campaign strategy was still being prepared, but mentioned that he would prioritize improving standards of living and increasing wage levels in the public and private sectors.

Mohammed al-Faraj

In 2014 Mohammed had been tipped to be standing in the 3rd Muharraq district, before confirming his address as 5th Muharraq.

Ahmed al-Abbasi

Saad al-Mahboub

Ahmed Abdulmalik

Hanadi al-Jowder 

6th Muharraq

Areas covered: Dair & Samaheej

Number of candidates: 5

Likelihood of going to second round: 55% 

Housing blocks: 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237

2014 registered voters: 7,762

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 11.1%

2014 second round vote: Abbas al-Madhi (MP) – 308 (52.9%); Nabil al-Ashiri – 274 (47.1%)

2014 first round votes: Abbas al-Madhi (MP) – 273 (38.8%); Nabil al-Ashiri – 270 (38.4%); Hassan al-Samaheeji – 82 (11.7%); Abbas al-Faraj – 78 (11.6%)

Voter demographic

Prior to 2011 this district had been held by Al-Wefaq, before being won by an independent candidate Abbas al-Madhi in the by-election that year. The significant opposition population which may in part decide to boycott makes the direction of the vote difficult to predict. However, several figures from the local Shia community have spoken out against the boycott.

Candidate outline

 As Bahrain’s only Shia majority constituency, where support for an elections boycott had been strong in previous years, the dynamics of the local contest tend to be very different here. Incumbent MP Abbas al-Madhi has dominated this seat through successive contests, so his unexpected withdrawal from the contest makes the result very difficult to predict as the five remaining contestants are new, relatively untested figures. 

Most of these candidates have been particularly visible yet, other than statements announcing their intention to stand, although there have been a flurry of media comments by Taghreed Alawi. Hassan al-Samaheeji is the only one of these candidates who stood in 2014, but his visibility at the time was very low and he ultimately only gained 82 votes. Given the unpredictability of this local contest, this could be a constituency which sees a female MP in 2018.

Taghreed al-Alawi 

Statements by Taghreed have been appearing in the media, including calls for investment in infrastructure, particularly roads and drains; while also demanding greater attention for housing applications from constituents in Deir and Samaheej.

Anas Khalid Ateeq

Ateeq called for public action to be taken against officials who were responsible for the current public deficit, warning that Bahrain was passing through an incredibly difficult fiscal period. However, Ateeq noted that new oil discoveries could lead to a strong economic recovery which MPs should play a role in supporting.

Hassan al-Samaheeji

Samaheeji was a low profile candidate in the 2014 elections and only won 82 votes.

Hisham al-Asheeri

Azhar Ali

7th Muharraq

Areas covered: Arad

Number of candidates: 11

Likelihood of going to second round: 90% 

Housing blocks: 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248

2014 registered voters: 13,204

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 74.2%

2014 first round vote: Ali al-Muqla (Asalah) 1599 (17.1%); Nasir al-Fadhalah (Minbar) 1525 (16.3%); Mohammed al-Sulaiti – 1493 (16.0%); Badr al-Hammadi (Watan) – 1474 (15.8%); Abdulrahman al-Khashram – 1114 (11.9%); Khalid Ibrahim – 912 (9.8%); Mohammed Wazzan – 528; Mohammed Halal – 363; Adel al-Mannai – 331

Second round vote: Ali al-Muqla (Asalah) – 4057 (50.6%); Nasir al-Fadhalah (Minbar) – 3968 (49.5%)

Voter demographic

This relatively small constituency in terms of land area has the highest number of registered voters out of all the constituencies in Bahrain, at 13,204. Arad has a predominantly Sunni working class demographic. Commentators in 2014 were divided on whether the contest would be dominated by the political groupings or whether independent and technocratic figures would be more appealing to the voters. Ultimately the second round ended up being dominated by candidates from Sunni Islamist societies, Asalah and Minbar; which Ali al-Muqla from Asalah won.

Candidate outline

This constituency was formerly held by independent MP Uthman Sharif for three parliamentary terms from 2002 to 2014. When Sharif stepped down in 2014, the contest was won by Asalah candidate Ali al-Muqla who earlier on in 2018 had appeared determined to relocate to 5th Muharraq. Muqla was mainly active on an Islamist agenda in his own parliamentary activity, so it remains to be seen whether constituents regard him as successful in acting in their interests. Other than Muqla there is a remarkably diverse field of ten fresh candidates.

Municipal councilor Sabah al-Dossary is a well-known figure, perhaps making this a possible Muharraq constituency where a woman could break through. The other female candidate, Salima al-Aradi may struggle to gain comparable attention. With Al-Minbar al-Islami’s expected candidate Nasser al-Fadhalah apparently changing his mind about competing; lawyer Hassan Ismail represents the Progressive League society (Al-Minbar al-Taqaddumi). Ammar Qambar, son of former MP Sami Qambar is also standing. 

Ali al-Muqla – Incumbent, Asalah 

As one of the two parliamentary representatives from the Salafist Al-Asalah Society, Al-Muqla has a visible Islamist agenda on many issues. However, he has also tackled populist issues like a rotten imported meat scandal. Al-Muqla’s comments on issues related to the State Budget and the need to rein in spending, increase revenues and consider the national debt, demonstrate a concern for macroeconomic issues.

During April 2015, Al-Muqla was outspoken in criticizing the delays in issuing the annual State Budget to Parliament. Along with a number of other Islamist MPs, Al-Muqla voted against the Budget during the 2 July 2015 parliamentary session. During the same session, Al-Muqla was among the minority who voted against increasing the debt ceiling. Al-Muqla has been consistent in speaking out about regional issues, including Palestine, Syria and Yemen. He is particularly outspoken in condemning Iranian interference in the region.

Al-Muqla: “I have expended all my efforts in the service of Muharraq. I trust in the awareness of citizens who make up the support base of Al-Asalah Society in the constituency. I have been a municipal councilor, now I aspire to represent the area as a deputy”.

Sabah al-Dossary 

Municipal Councilor Dossary stressed that her role on the council made it clear to her how important it was to have an effective local MP serving the constituency’s interests who worked closely with the municipal council. 

Ammar Qambar

Son of former MP Sami al-Qambar. Qambar has put forward the interesting proposal for each constituency to have a committee responsible for monitoring the performance of their local MP, in order to increase levels of accountability.

Abdullah al-Bastaki 

Abdullah is described as a young businessman. He previously unsuccessfully campaigned to be a municipal councilor in 2014. Statements so far have been rather vague about his policies and priorities. Bastaki has denied claims that he has received support from the Al Saff Al-Islami political society, stating that he is standing as an independent.

Hassan Ismail

Dossary is a lawyer representing the Progressive Democratic League.

Rashid al-Binzayed 

Binzayid’s campaign focuses almost entirely on the youth, with the aspiration that the coming Parliament will have a high proportion of relatively young people.

Rashid al-Jalal 

Jalal worked at Mina Salman port before taking early retirement. He said that his electoral platform would be based on the “concerns of the citizen”

Ali al-Ansari 

Yousuf Abdulghuffar 

Najib Isa 

Salimah al-Aradi 

8th Muharraq

Areas covered: Southern Muharraq; Hidd

Number of candidates: 6

Housing blocks: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 128

Likelihood of going to second round: 55% 

2014 registered voters: 9,065

2014 percentage 1st round voter turnout: 85.9%

2014 contest decided by outright win in the first round of voting.

2014 first round votes: Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 4197 (55.7%); Samir Khadim (MP) – 3020 (40.1%); Abdullah Bughamar (Al-Saff) – 323 (4.3%)

Voter demographic

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.

Candidate outline

The 8th Muharraq constituency tends to have a 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.

Until a 2012 by-election, this district had been held by the Salafi Al-Asalah society, before being replaced by independent MP Samir Khadim, who now faces a representative from the Sunni society, Al-Saff, and just one other independent candidate. Prior to 2012 the constituency had been considered a stronghold for the Salafist Al-Asalah Society. Khadim does not represent Al-Asalah, but had previously enjoyed their support, although they appear to have favoured his rival Abdulrahman Bu-Ali in the 2012 by-election.

Khadim hails from northern Hidd, which according to local pundits guarantees him a substantial proportion of support from those areas; whereas Abdulrahman Bu-Ali is a southerner and so also enjoys a near-guaranteed support base, in an area where kinship ties and local solidarity are crucial. With these two candidates looking to the residents of respectively the north and south areas as a guaranteed support base, Bughamar is said to be able to count on the affiliates of many political societies for his share of support. Although he only got 4.3% of the vote in 2014, past unsuccessful candidates can perform surprisingly strongly given their stronger brand recognition as a protest against incumbents.

The three other young candidates are relative unknowns at a national level. Their best hope is that current frustration with parliamentary politics inspires voters to choose new and untested faces. However they will have a battle to gain significant attention vis-à-vis the three frontrunners.

Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – Incumbent MP

After a relatively low-key first year in the Parliament, Bu-Ali in October 2015 achieved prominence as the new head of the powerful Finance Committee. Bu-Ali’s ability to mobilize his parliamentary colleagues behind a particular stance was demonstrated by his 10 March 2015 outspoken opposition to measures for privatizing the regulation of pearls, after which numerous MPs stood up to support his stance. 

He was also strongly outspoken on the issue of the national debt, defending the need to limit the debt while not infringing on the rights of citizens. Bu-Ali was one of a dwindling number of MPs who remained steadfastly opposed to increasing the ceiling for levels of public borrowing.

Bu-Ali’s July 2015 comments criticizing the establishment of parliamentary committees on the subsidies issue hint at a vision for a more limited role for Parliament than that of many of his colleagues. Bu-Ali said that such policy issues should be left to the executive, while MPs should restrict themselves to oversight of implementation of these policies.

Bu-Ali’s assertive position on parliamentary support of the Yemen intervention in early 2015 attracted approving comments from colleagues.

Bu-Ali has a keen interest in economic issues such as privatization and employment. In spring 2015 he spoke out on the benefits of privatizing Gulf Air, in order to make the enterprise more financially viable. He also successfully advocated a bill for improving fishing facilities in his constituency.

In the 2012 by-election Samir Khadim only narrowly beat Abdulrahman Bu-Ali, with Bu-Ali gaining 47% in the second round of the vote.

Bu-Ali has 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.  @a_a_buali

Samir Khadim – Former MP

Independent candidate Samir Khadim arrived in Parliament after a 2012 by-election to replace Al-Asalah MP Ghanim al-Buainain. There is said to be widespread local satisfaction at Khadim’s performance as a deputy since 2012, particularly his care to maintain close relations with local constituents. 

Khadim was also a municipal councilor for four years and his family controls the locally-significant Hidd Club. So he can count on his supporters in northern Hidd, in addition to others in the area who see him as a competent representative.

Having contested four previous rounds of municipal and parliamentary elections, Samir Khadim is an experienced campaigner with a strong group around him who can canvass support.

Furthermore, Khadim is also said to count on the support of the powerful Asalah and Minbar Sunni societies, as well as the affiliation of two of the municipal candidates. @Sameer_Voice

Abdullah Bughamar (Al-Saff Islamic Society)

Bughamar represents the Sunni Islamic Al-Saff Society, as well as being a founding member of the National Coalition for Political Societies, which means that he can look for support to members of the National Action Charter Society, Al-Saff, the National Unity Gathering and the National Dialogue Society for support. In 2018 he claimed that Al-Minbar al-Islami had also chosen to back him.

Bughamar gained just 55 votes standing against Abdulhalim Murad, contesting a Central Governorate seat in 2010. Despite his undoubted local connections, in comparison to the other two candidates, Bughamar tends to be seen as something of an outsider; only gaining around 4.3% of the votes in 2014. 

Bughamar in 2018 claimed that he stood a much stronger chance following recent developments in the constituency and popular dissatisfaction with the performance of previous MPs. @qhammar

Raid al-Ahmed

Younger candidate Ahmed claims that more youthful MPs have the energy and vision to change the coming Parliament. He said that his own electoral campaign was likewise based on promoting programmes and opportunities for young people.

Talal Mohammed

Talal is a civil servant who works in Parliament. Talal stressed that as someone who had worked more than 14 years in Parliament, since the beginning of King Hamad’s reform process, he had the necessary experience to succeed in the role.

Mubarak al-Mukhaimar

 

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