Date :Monday, October 22nd, 2018 | Time : 12:30 |ID: 75098 | Print

Bahrain Shia opposition calls for Election Boycott

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SHAFAQNAThe Bahraini Shi’a opposition group Al-Wefaq ,which has been dissolved and banned from conducting any activity by the ruling Al Khalifah regime, called on Oct. 9 for a national boycott of parliamentary elections scheduled on November 24.

The Al Khalifa royals hope that Bahrain’s upcoming quadrennial elections, set to take place Nov. 24 — and Dec. 1., though King Hamad has banned members of dissolved opposition parties from running.

Hundreds of citizens took part in peaceful protests calling for boycott of Parliamentary and municipal elections organized by the authorities next month.

Photos published by activists on social media outlets showed hundreds of citizens taking part in the protests that were staged in Diraz, Karana, Abu Saiba and Al-Shakhoura. Protestor held anti-regime slogans and others supporting elections boycott.

Protestors also held photos of spiritual leader of Shia majority Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been in London since July to receive treatment, Bahrain mirror noticed.

Oppositions say the poll will take place in a repressive environment that reflects an increasing autocracy across the Middle East since uprisings swept the region in 2011.

“They want us to surrender. They are not giving the opposition any chance to participate. They don’t talk to you, they put you in jail,” said an opposition politician, who, like others, asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

“Bahrain is now in the worst situation that it has ever faced in its history. It has turned into a desolate island, where any political activity, expression of dissenting opinions, human rights advocacy and peaceful protests are prohibited,” Deputy Secretary-General of al-Wefaq, Sheikh Hussein al-Daihi, said at a ceremony in London on Tuesday.

He added, “Nearly 200 people have either lost their lives under torture or been executed since 2011 up until now. Moreover, some 50,000 demonstrations and rallies have been staged ever since, demanding a peaceful democratic transition and real political partnership.”

The Sunni-ruled kingdom has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

The government has crushed the worst of the unrest and silenced most of its critics. More than 3,000 people have been jailed, the main opposition movement, al-Wefaq, has been dissolved and its leader locked up. Hundreds of people have fled into exile or been stripped of their nationalities, activists say, ft mentioned.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

According to Press TV, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 last year.

The election of Donald Trump also emboldened the region’s autocratic monarchies, say analysts. Activists note that Bahraini security forces launched an assault on the home of the kingdom’s top Shia cleric just days after the US president met Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and other Arab leaders at a summit in Riyadh in May 2017. Five people were killed and 286 arrested in the raid. Police say they were attacked.

In May 2018, a Bahraini court voided the citizenship of 115 people. These citizens join hundreds of others whose Bahraini nationalities have been revoked and rendered stateless by authorities since 2012. Of these native Bahrainis, some have been expelled from the archipelago country.

Yet there is good reason to doubt that these elections will serve to enhance the ruling family’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Shiite opposition. Indeed, on Oct. 9, Bahrain’s dominant Shiite opposition group — Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society —called for a national boycott of the elections. This further indicates the extent to which many Bahraini Shiites believe that they are not genuinely represented in the government and that participating in next month’s elections for the lower-house would be counterproductive to their struggle, al-monitor reported.

Since then, authorities have outlawed the main Shia opposition group, al-Wefaq, and the main secular opposition group, the National Democratic Action Society, or Waad.

The majority of the Bahraini society has no option but to boycott and not participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to be held on November 24.

Amnesty International accused Bahrain of retreating from promised reforms

Rights group Amnesty International has previously accused Bahrain of retreating from promised reforms and “dramatically” escalating a clampdown on political dissent.

“Despite repeated claims… to the contrary, Bahrain has been steadily backtracking on the promises of reform it made following its heavy-handed response to the uprising in 2011,” Amnesty said.

The rights group called on Manama to reverse decisions to dissolve Waad and al-Wefaq – the largest bloc in parliament before 2011.

Bahrain, an ally of the west that hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is considered a bulwark against Iran, is unique in the Persian Gulf because it is home to a Shia majority ruled by a Sunni monarchy. Cycles of unrest have often blighted the kingdom.

As Bahrain fails to resolve the political crisis that has unleashed waves of instability in the country since 2011, the tense post-2011 regional climate continues to further undermine the prospects for peaceful resolution of Bahrain’s internal sources of unrest.

Protecting the Al Khalifa rulers in Bahrain, which since 2003 has been the Arab world’s only Shiite-majority country ruled by a Sunni regime, remains a high priority for Saudi Arabia, which along with the UAE heavily influences Manama. The Saudis have constantly seen the specter of any successful Arab Spring revolution within the Gulf Cooperation Council — especially if the revolution is led by Shiite Persian Gulf Arabs who receive, at minimum, moral support from Tehran — as crossing a red line.

As Bahrain remains highly dependent on Saudi Arabia and the UAE for financial and security assistance in the post-2011 period, the regime’s ability to make concessions to the opposition is greatly limited by its key regional alliances. From Riyadh’s vantage point, the liberalization or democratization of Bahrain’s political system would inevitably serve to advance Iran’s geopolitical interests in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf, and thus the Al Saud rulers maintain pressure on Bahrain’s royals to prevent the country’s Shiites from achieving significant political gains.

Bahraini Al-Wefaq stance on 2018 elections

Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society has issued a statement, clarifying its position on the 2018 Parliamentary elections in Bahrain.

Accordingly, Al-Wefaq emphasize the following in the statement:
1. We are committed to the need for dialogue and negotiation to overcome the crises besieging the country.
2. We emphasize the need to stop the depletion and theft of the country’s wealth.
3. We strongly affirm our steadfast position regarding national and Islamic unity and the need to increase national cohesion and to ruin the attempts of those who follow certain agendas.
4. We confirm our adherence to the peaceful approach in claiming just and legitimate rights and we affirm the continuation of the civilized popular movement demanding democratic transformation.
5. We believe that this election process is very offensive to Bahrain and Bahrainis and reflects a state of disregard and disrespect of them. The people of Bahrain are superior to such an election process.
6. We emphasize that our choice to boycott the elections stems from a very deep study and vision based on national interest, national security and the preservation of the country’s wealth and the citizen’s status.
7. We affirm that our boycott of this election aims at preserving the dignity and position of our people and emphasizing that it is important for the people to obtain their rights as they deserve.
8. This experience of meager nominal elections is added by Bahrain to the record of the world worst experiences in the election of the legislative authority.
9. We call on all our people from different classes and affiliations to take an inclusive national stance to boycott and refuse to participate in the elections, so that we will be able to improve and develop the experience in a fair manner that preserves the rights and dignity of the people. The participation means submitting to further marginalization, corruption and destruction, which are increasing and accumulating.
10. After studying and extrapolating all the sites and constituencies of Bahrain, we expect the participation rate to be between 27% and 32% only and 3% in some constituencies. The percentages may reach this level by pushing and forcing the military personnel and obliging a number of employees to vote, and also through using electoral money and intimidation.
11. We call on the international community and UN institutions to take their natural role in supporting the people of Bahrain in overcoming this troubled situation and in building national consensus, Mehr News Agency reported.


Read more from shafaqna:

About 850 grave human rights violations by Bahraini regime in July

Hundreds of Bahrainis stage anti-regime protests

Bahrain regime blocked Shiite’s access to Imam Reza (AS) Hosseiniya

Bahrain Center for Human Rights: Al-Khalifa officials are struggling with Shiite Ashura rituals

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