Implications of redrawn constituency borders in Bahrain
Facts you need to know
- In the 22 November elections an expected 150-200 candidates will compete for 40 parliamentary seats.
- New electoral district changes mean that over 90% of Bahrain’s constituencies are now of approximately equal size.
- With one of the five Governorates abolished and hardly any of the 40 constituencies left untouched, this represents radical and far-reaching reform of the electoral system.
- Allegations of unfair constituency sizes were one of the opposition’s main grievances.
- These changes were introduced after extensive debate within the National Dialogue process and after the Crown Prince personally engaged with community representatives.
Just two months before the parliamentary elections, Bahrainis are struggling to digest the implications of completely redrawn borders of electoral districts across the country. One of the five Governorates (Central Governorate) has been abolished altogether and those constituencies have been incorporated into neighboring regions.
It has long been one of the top grievances of the opposition that population sizes in the different constituencies is highly uneven, as a result of demographic changes over the years. There have been rumors for a while that there would be a modest rebalancing between the relatively highly populated Northern Governorate constituencies vis-à-vis the Southern Governorate constituencies, which despite encompassing around three-quarters of the land area of Bahrain, have a relatively lower population density.
However, the announced changes – following a process of consultation by the Crown Prince with community figures and extensive discussion of this matter in the National Dialogue process – are far more radical and far-reaching than anyone expected.
The Northern Governorate previously included just nine electoral districts – it now has twelve districts, resulting in more consistent population sizes in each individual constituency. The Justice Minister has confirmed that 90% of constituencies now have equivalent populations sizes following the changes.
Some of the northeast of the Central Governorate has been swallowed-up by the Capital Governorate, but most of the Central Governorate has been incorporated by an expanded Southern Governorate, increasing the population size in each of the revised Southern constituencies.
Particularly in many of the Southern and Muharraq constituencies, numerous candidates have already registered, with around 150 candidates in total so far and many more likely to register before the deadline. The majority are independent candidates, as many major political blocs still haven’t confirmed how they will participate.
Within the opposition the constituency boundary changes has triggered intense debate about whether to participate in the elections with some of the smaller societies already signaling they may stand.
1) Capital Governorate
The Capital Governorate has expanded from eight to ten constituencies and there have been significant changes in the existing constituencies.
Six of the eight original constituencies (2nd district, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th & 8th) were opposition strongholds held by Al-Wefaq until its withdrawal from Parliament in 2011.
The 1st district along the northeast coastline and the 6th district (to be reconstituted) have been held by loyalist independents.
Under the new constituencies, the 1st and 4th districts are in traditionally loyalist, largely Sunni areas. For example, the reconstituted 4th district is centred around the main Al-Fateh Mosque and prosperous Juffair region and includes areas like Adliya, a thriving centre for culture, the arts and the hospitality industry. The redrawing of this 4th district has left three sitting MPs fighting over the same seat alongside several other rival candidates.
In the remaining areas, including in the two constituencies (9th & 10th districts) taken from the defunct Central governorate, the opposition – if it decided to participate – would be expected to perform well; particularly in opposition heartlands like Sanabis and Karbabad (5th district – also including Seef); Khamis, Adhari and Sehla (6th district); and Nabih Saleh and Sitra (8th district).
Mixed population areas where constituency borders have changed like the 2nd district in central Manama, may be less predictable and therefore will be hotly contested. There are already around 20 candidates contesting the three districts covering central and east Manama (2nd, 4th & 5th)
To the west of the capital, the reconstituted 3rd and 6th districts have taken in areas formerly part of the Northern Governorate, which helps equalize population size in each of the constituencies.
2) Al-Muharraq Governorate
Al-Muharraq is the least-changed of the governorates. The island of Al-Muharraq has traditionally been a stronghold for Sunni Islamist parties like the Salafi Al-Asalah and Al-Minbar Al-Islami (close to the Muslim Brotherhood).
Five of the eight seats are currently held by independent candidates (2nd district, 4th, 5th, 7th & 8th). Al-Asalah and Al-Minbar currently only hold one seat each (1st & 3rd districts respectively). The 8th district had been held by Al-Asalah, but was lost to independent Samir Khadim in a 2012 by-election.
The 6th district (Al-Dair and Samaheej) was an Al-Wefaq opposition stronghold, but was taken unopposed by Abbas Al-Madi in the 2011 by-election following Al-Wefaq’s withdrawal from Parliament.
In just the five districts of central Al-Muharraq (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th) there are already nearly 40 candidates fighting over these parliamentary seats.
3) Northern Governorate
The Northern Governorate is the heartland for the opposition, with Al-Wefaq formerly dominant in seven of the nine electoral districts.
Al-Wefaq claimed with some justification that in some of these districts the population was proportionately higher than in constituencies in other parts of the country, so the significant rearrangement here will certainly be seen as a welcome step by opposition moderates.
For example, the 1st Northern district was previously the most populous district in Bahrain. This district has effectively divided into two; its western half becoming the 4th Northern district (Jidhafs, Abu-Quwah, Al-Qadam) and its eastern half incorporated into 6th Capital (North & South Sehla, Tashan).
The 4th district, now reconstituted as the 3rd district which runs along the northern strip of the west coast and includes Sunni-majority towns of Budaiya, Hamala and Jasra; has been held by independent candidate Hassan Al-Dossari. The 6th district – one of the reconstituted Hamad Town constituencies has been held by Sunni Al-Minbar Al-Islami MP Muhammad Ismail Al-Ammadi.
The other seven former districts were held by Al-Wefaq until 2011 and after the 2011 by-elections were won mainly by a mixture of independent Shia candidates.
Increasing the Northern constituencies from nine to twelve districts is a radical and brave step on behalf of the Bahraini authorities. Some areas that were formerly in the Northern governorate have been incorporated into the 3rd and 6th Capital districts
Should the opposition decide to contest the parliamentary elections, this significant increase in constituencies in its own heartland would mean a likelihood of the opposition gaining more parliamentary seats, although the numerous changes in electoral borders makes this difficult to predict exactly. Opposition newspaper Al-Wasat predicted that the opposition could win up to 10 of the 12 revised constituencies in the Northern Governorate, which isn’t unrealistic, but would depend on the nature of the competition in mixed areas like Hamad Town (8th-11th districts) and the diverse 7th district.
The north coast districts (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th; encompassing Al-Hillah, Karranah, Janusan, Barbar, Diraz, Al-Markh, Bani Jamra, Jidhafs, Al-Qadam, Abu-Quwwah, Shakhura, Muqaba, and Sar) are purely opposition strongholds.
As mentioned above, the west coast 3rd district could be expected to be held by a loyalist candidate, due to its majority Sunni population.
The 6th district of Ali is also a centre for the opposition. Some of this area was incorporated from the Central Governorate.
The 7th district (Al-Qurrayah, Janabiya, Buri, Hamala and Damistan) is a mixture of opposition and loyalist, Sunni and Shia and so is unpredictable.
Hamad Town is a major population centre with a mixed working-class population and encompasses the 8th, 9th 10th and 11th electoral districts and so competition would be expected to be fierce here.
The 12th district, including Kazrakan, Damistan, Malikiya, Sadad and Shahrakan is also a centre for the opposition, where Al-Wefaq could expect to win if they contested.
4) Southern Governorate
Most of the defunct Central Governorate has been swallowed up by the Southern Governorate, with some sections also being absorbed into the Capital Governorate.
The Southern electoral districts have as a result increased from six to ten.
One example of the effects of the substantially larger population size in each of the Southern constituencies is that several prominent sitting MPs are now fighting over the same seats, such as MPs Jassim Al Saeedi and Khamis Al-Rumaihi forced to contest the same seat in the 8th district,
All of the six former Southern districts were held by independent loyalist candidates, predominantly Sunnis.
With the expanded districts, the opposition could be expected to do well in the new 4th district (Nuwaidrat & Sanad), if it chose to participate, which would represent the first time they had the opportunity to make headway in the Southern Governorate. There are also significant concentrations of opposition supporters in the Sitra area of the 8th district.
The urban populations of Isa and Zayed Town in the 1st and 2nd electoral districts could be expected to be hotly competed and numerous candidates are already signed up to compete. The core Sunni loyalist areas of the south around Al-Riffa also look set to be highly competitive, with eight candidates already in the West Riffa 7th district.
Candidates so far
Below is a list of the candidates who have declared their intention to compete in the parliamentary elections as of 1 October, based on media reporting. Formal candidate registration only occurs between 15-19 October, so this list is likely to change substantially before the elections. Many of the major political societies have still not declared full lists of candidates, and in particular it is unclear whether the societies belonging to the Al-Fateh Coalition will succeed in forming a political bloc. The change in constituency boundaries seems to have complicated this process.
It is indicated in brackets below whether candidates belong to a political society; otherwise they are assumed to be standing as independents, although this also could change.
There are 22 women in the list below (indicated with an *)
(Manama northeast coast, Diplomatic Area, Houra, Qudaybiya)
Adil Al-Asumi (Incumbent)
(Central Manama, Al-Burhama, Salihiya, Al-Suwayfiyah)
*Ibtisam Hijres (Incumbent)
Ahmed Muhsin Qassim
Mohammad Al-Hawaj - probable
(Sanabis, Karbabad, Seef)
Ali Abbas Shamtout (Incumbent)
Sayed Hashim Al-Aradi
(Al-Fateh, Juffair, Al-Ghuraifa, Mina Salman, Umm Al-Hassam, Abu-Ghazzal, Adliya)
Abdulrahman Bu-Majid (Incumbent)
Abdulhakim Al-Shamari (Incumbent)
Hassan Bu-Khamas (Incumbent)
Ibrahim Al-Mana’i (Mithaq)
(Bilad Al Qadeem, Zinj, Salmaniya, Segaiya, Mahooz and Abu Asheera)
Jamal Mohammed Salih Abdullah (Incumbent)
Kadhim Al-Saeed – probable
Adil Al-Safar (Al-Watan)
(Khamis, Al-Musalla, Tashan, Abu Baham, Adhari, North Sehla, South Sehla)
*Masumah Hassan Abdalrahim
Ali Al-Atish (Rabitah)
(Jid Ali, Jurdab)
(Nabih Saleh, Sitra, Industrial Area, Marqoban, Mahaza)
(Southern Sitra, East Al-Eker)
Muhammad Al Al-Shaikh
(West Eker, Sanad and South Isa Town)
*Sumayah Abdulrahman Ali al-Jawder (Incumbent)
*Nourah Abdullah Ma’touq
Wajih Baqir – (Mithaq)
*Lu’luah al-Mutlaq (Al-Watan)
Adil al-Mu’awadah (Asalah; Incumbent)
Ali – Bu-Fursan
Muhammad al-Hussaini - probable
Dr. Sa’di Muhammad
Mariam Al Jowder (Al-Watan)
2nd incumbent Abdulhamid al-Mir
Ali Ahmad (Minbar; Incumbent)
Abdulrahman Bin-Ziman ( Mithaq)
Mustafa al-Dawishan- probable
Abdullah al-Mana’i - probable
(Al-Muharraq central, Qalali)
Jamal Ali Bu-Hassan
Abdallah Muhammad Sa’d
Isa al-Kooheji (Incumbent)
Adnan Bu-Muti’ (Minbar)
Rima Hassan Halal
Abdullah al-Aynati (National Unity Gathering)
(Northeast Muharraq; Amwaj Islands)
Mahmoud al-Mahmoud (Incumbent)
*Dunya al-Fa’iz – probable
Sami al-Sha’ir (National Unity Gathering)
(Dair & Samaheej)
*Amani Abdullah al-Aradi – probable
Nasir al-Fadhalah (Minbar)
Ali Ya’qoub al-Muqallah
Muhammad al-Hamad (National Unity Gathering)
Badr al-Hammadi (Al-Watan)
(Southern Muharraq; Hidd)
Samir al-Khadim (Incumbent)
Abdullah Bu-Ghumar (Al-Saff)
Abdulnasir Abdullah - probable
(Al-Hilla, Al-Meqsha, Karranah, Janusan, Barbar, Diraz)
(Al-Markh, Bani Jamra, Diraz)
Ali Ahmad Ali al-Dirazi (incumbent)
(Northern strip of west coast; Budayya, Al-Haniniyah, Jasra, Hamala, Um al-Sabiyan, Um al-Na’san, Jiddah)
Hassan al-Dosary (Incumbent)
Adil al-Dosary (National Unity Gathering)
(Jidhafs, Jablah Habshi, North Sehla, Al-Qadam, Abu-Quwwah)
*Huda Mansour Radhi
(Al-Qadam, Al-Hajar, Abu Saiba, Al-Shakhurah, Al-Muqaba, Diraz, Sar, Al-Markh)
Ahmad Abdulrahman Mahmoud al-Sa’ati (Incumbent Al-Watan)
* Ru’a al-Haiki
(Al-Qurayah, Janabiyah, Buri, Hamalah, Dumistan)
Isa al-Turki- probable
Ahmad Arad (National Unity Gathering)
Khalid al-Maloud – (Asalah; incumbent)
Muhammad Ismail al-Ammadi (Minbar; Incumbent)
(Dar Kulayb, Hamad Town)
Muhammad Salim Jassim Bu-Qays (Incumbent)
(Dumistan, Al-Luzi, Karzakan, Al-Malikiyah, Sadad, Shahrakan, Al-Safariyah)
Khalid Abdali Muhammad Abd-Aal (Incumbent)
Adnan al-Maliki – (Asalah; Incumbent)
*Jayhan Muhammad Hadi
Khalid al-Qattan (Minbar)
(Isa Town, Zayid Town)
Isa al-Qadhi (Incumbent)
Saleh Muhammad Khalifah al-Shawoush
(North Riffa, Al-Hajiat)
Abdalhalim Murad (Asalah; Incumbent)
(Al-Nuwaidrat, Sanad, Al-Hajiat)
Ali al-Zaid (Incumbent)
(West Riffa, Al-Haniniyah, Al-Bukuwarah)
(Northern Riffa, Al-Bukuwarah)
Khalifa al-Dharrani (Incumbent)
Abdullah Abdulrahman Baqir
*Jamila al-Kooheji (National Unity Gathering)
*Nawal Ahmad Saqr al-Dosary
*Layla Ali al-Lamal
(Al-Nuwaidrat, West Riffa, Al-Rawdhah)
Abdullah Huwail (Incumbent)
Ahmed al-Mula (Incumbent)
(Southern Sitra, Al-Ma’amir, East Al-Riffa, Awali, Al-Mazrowiyah, Askar, Jaw, Al-Dawr)
Jassim al-Saeedi – (Incumbent)
Khamis al-Rumaihi – (Incumbent)
Naji al-Ka’bi - probable
(Southwest coast; Al-Sakhir)
(Southern Bahrain, Al-Dawr & Hawar islands)
*Latifa Al- Gaoud (incumbent)