Bahrain opposition fails to win in second round
MANAMA: Bahrain’s secular opposition group Waad lost the two seats it contested in a second round of elections, leaving power firmly in the hands of the ruling Sunni dynasty, results showed yesterday.
Wefaq, the main opposition group representing the Gulf Arab country’s majority Shias, had hoped victory by Waad would help the two groups win more power for the chamber, overshadowed by an upper house whose members are appointed by the king.
Wefaq won 18 seats in the 40-seat house in the first round a week ago, but Saturday’s second round left pro-government Sunni parties and largely pro-government independents in a majority.
The country is ruled by the Al Khalifa dynasty, seen by its main allies Saudi Arabia and the United States as a bulwark against the regional influence of Shia power Iran.
Bahrain’s majority Shia population complains of discrimination in access to government jobs and housing, which the government denies, and want a bigger say in decision making.
It has not been able to capitalise on demographic strength in elections. Analysts and the opposition say the government apportions voting districts to prevent Wefaq winning a majority.
Election results published in an official statement yesterday showed the two remaining candidates of Wefaq’s ally Waad both lost their races in the second round. A third Waad candidate lost in the first round.
The opposition had hoped a tie in seat numbers versus Sunni Islamists and pro-government independents would also help it launch more probes into corruption and extensive land ownership by the royal family.
Sunni Islamist groups Al Asalah and Al Menbar, both loosely allied with the government, won four more seats in the second round, held in nine districts in which no candidate had taken more than 50 percent of votes last week.
The two groups won a total of seven seats, less than the 15 they won in 2006 when agreements between both blocs’ candidates not to compete for voters helped them win more seats.
Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, saw a rise in sectarian tensions ahead of the vote after the government launched a broad crackdown against some Shi’ite opposition leaders and activists in August.
On Thursday it began the trial of 25 men accused of plotting to topple the Sunni-dominated political system with defendants saying they were tortured, an accusation officials denied.
Rival Sunni Islamist groups lost almost half their seats in a run-off, which also saw a woman making history by winning a municipal seat.
The National Islamic Forum (NIF), the local arm of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, regained three out of the seven seats it held in the outgoing parliament, according to results from Saturday’s vote released overnight.
It had fielded eight candidates in the ballot, which came a week after the first round of the legislative poll.
Al Assalah, a Salafist Sunni group, held on to four of its five seats after contesting the election with five candidates.
The two groups had forged an alliance in the last elections of 2006 which gave them 12 seats together in the outgoing parliament of the Shia-majority kingdom.
Saturday’s polls saw the head of the NIF losing the seat he had held for eight years to Ali Zayed, a Salafist Sunni new to the parliament.
Two candidates from the National Democratic Action Association, an alliance of pan-Arab nationalists and leftists that failed to win seats in 2006, also lost in the second round.
Meanwhile, Fatima Salman became the first woman to win a contested seat in Bahraini elections after grabbing a place in the municipal council of Muharraq constituency, east of Manama.
Eight women figured among the 127 candidates running in the first round, with only one of them securing a seat, although she was unopposed.
Some 71,000 voters cast their ballots on Saturday in the parliamentary vote, while 125,000 voted in the municipal elections, Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa, head of the electoral commission said late Saturday.
The minister had said after the first round that the turnout represented at least 67 percent of eligible voters, compared with 72 percent in 2006 and 53.4 percent in 2002.
In addition to the parliament, the king appoints the members of the 40-strong consultative council, which has the authority to overrule parliament decisions.
|Powered by Sigsiu.NET|