Sunday, October 24, 2010
Opposition belonging to the Shiite majority wins almost half of the seats in Bahraini parliament
Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition group, Wafaq, won all of the 18 seats it contested in Bahrain's parliamentary elections which were held on Saturday. It thereby won almost half of the seats, which amount toa totalof 40, election officials announced. In the outgoing assemblee Wafaq hold 17 seats.
The result was expected as the districts the group contested consisted mainly of Shi'ite populations. The opposition says the government has apportioned districts in bsauch a way that the Shi'ite opposition is prevented from gaining a majority in the assembly.
The run-up to the vote was overshadowed by a broad security crackdown against some Shi'ite opposition groups in August that also targeted bloggers and human rights activists.
Amnesty International, on 18 October reported that 'as many as 250 people – including clerics, students, members of human rights organizations and charities, and opposition activists have been detained since August. Almost all are believed to be members of the Shi'a community, the majority population in Bahrain, whose rulers are mostly members of the Sunni minority. (...) In September, amid growing tension, the government suspended the board of the legally registered Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), accusing it of "legal and administrative irregularities" and co-operating with "illegal organizations", after it had publicly criticized the government for violating the human rights of those arrested in August.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has a Shi'ite Muslim majority population but is governed by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, which its allies Saudi Arabia and the United States see as a bulwark against the regional influence of Shi'ite power Iran.
Sunni groups allied to the government, Al Asalah and Al Menbar, as well as independents, were also contesting. The two Sunni Islamist groups Al Asalah and Al Menbar that held a combined 15 seats in the outgoing assembly looked set to lose some of their seats to independents as they only won three seats directly, with another seven of their candidates having to enter a second round of voting next Saturday.
The justice ministry said turnout was 67 percent of eligible voters, down from 72 percent in 2006.
Bahrain's parliament has limited powers. All bills have to pass the Shura (an upper house) whose 40 members are all appointed by the king. Ultimate power in the country rests with the ruling family.