SHAFAQNA – THE island-nation of Bahrain is preparing to hold its first elections for a new parliament since Arab Spring-inspired protests erupted nearly four years ago.
BUT many say they are heeding calls by the country’s Shi’ite opposition to boycott the Saturday polls.
The boycott by the opposition al-Wefaq group and four others means the election results are unlikely to diffuse tensions between Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy and Shi’ite activists who continue to protest for greater rights and a greater say in government.
Shi’ite taxi driver Jaafar Habib, 35, said he will not vote because he doesn’t believe that parliament can act independent of Bahrain’s Cabinet, which is appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
“The previous years taught me that our parliament is paralysed of making any changes unless it’s what the government wants,” he said.
A total of 419 candidates are running for municipal and parliamentary seats on Saturday, according to state media. Any candidates that do not secure more than 50 per cent of the vote will head to a runoff a week later.