Elections Held in Bahrain as Opposition Boycotts

On Saturday, polling stations throughout Bahrain were opened for municipal and parliamentary elections, although the main opposition group, which is Shi’ite, has boycotted the voting.

There are 419 candidates running for office – 153 for municipals council seats and 266 for seats in parliament.

However, the elections likely will not resolve the political turmoil the kingdom has where the al-Khalifa family who is Sunni Muslim rules over a population made up of a majority of Shi’ite Muslims.

The kingdom has been hit by unrest since protestors filled the streets demanding greater democracy in February of 2011.

Reconciliation talks amongst the ruling al-Khalifa family and members of the opposition started again in early 2014, but stalled following the prosecution of officials from the opposition on a number of different charges.

The biggest opposition, Al Wefaq, is boycotting these elections, as are three more groups.

Al Wefaq said it would not participation in the elections because parliament would never have sufficient power and because the voting districts were set up to favor the Sunni Muslims.

Despite the boycotting, the polling stations appeared busy in some districts with long lines starting early and continuing into the afternoon.

In Sanabis a village of mostly Shi’ite, which is west of Manama stones and rocks were scattered across the roadway as a way to block traffic preventing voters from making it to the polling stations.

Al Wefaq, which is strongly linked to the Shi’ite majority in Bahrain, won 18 of 40 parliamentary seats during the elections of 2010, but pulled its representatives from the parliament in 2011 during a major crackdown against protesters who were mainly Shi’ite Muslim during the demonstrations of February of 2011.

This past October, a court ruled to suspend all al Wefaq activities for a three-month period in a case brought to court by the Bahrain government against the group in July, alleging the law had been broken by them.

Bahrain, which is one of Saudi Arabia’s best allies and home to the Fifth Fleet of the U.S., accuses the Shi’ite power of Iran of stirring up civil unrest. Those allegations have been denied by Iran.

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