Muslim Brotherhood In Bahrain Suffers Electoral Losses


Global media has reported on the electoral losses suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood in Bahrain following a parliamentary election runoff. According to one report, the losses included the head of the Brotherhood losing his seat to a Salafist new to the Parliament:

Rival Sunni Islamist groups in Bahrain lost almost half their seats in a parliamentary election 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 Shi’ite-majority kingdom that is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty. 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. Bahrain’s main Shi’ite opposition group, the Islamic National Accord Association, had already secured all 18 seats it contested in the 40-member parliament on October 23, becoming the lower house’s largest single bloc. 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. About 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 per cent of eligible voters, compared with 72 per cent in 2006 and 53.4 per cent 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.

As reported in an earlier post, the National Islamic Forum, otherwise known as Menbar, has expected to win eight seats in the election. As that post discussed, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had reported:

The Menbar National Islamic Society, chaired by Dr. Salah Ali expected to win 8 seats in parliament due to its popularity. During previous parliamentary sessions the society had succeeded in proposing nearly 112 laws and 619 bills in addition to the formation of 12 investigating committees. It submitted approximately 650 questions to ministers in the current 2006-2010 sessions and formed 11 interim committees. The group has participated in the discussion of more than 40 of the total questions submitted to parliament during the last parliamentary session. Of the 619 bills however, the government only responded to 290.  The MB’s political arm has called on the people to vote for its 10 remaining candidates 5 contesting in the parliamentary election and another 5 in the municipal poll Advertisements in the local papers were posted. The group had formally been the third largest parliamentary bloc in the outgoing house acquiring seven out of the 40-seat legislature during the last elections. According to analysts this confidence of victory resulted in the group not renewing its 2006 alliance with Al Assala, the Salafi formation that had eight lawmakers in the House. The over confidence resulted in the group failing to win even a single seat where its three candidates lost in constituencies that have long been regarded as its bastions.Because of the densely populated Shiite districts which have up to 15,000 registered voters, as opposed to areas where only Sunni candidates are running, which have a much smaller number on the electoral roll the MB offshoot is up for a much tougher opponent than previously expected.

A September UK media report on a campaign the the Muslim Brotherhood in Bahrain to ban alcohol in that country provides more information about Menbar:

The problem for absolute monarchies is that they do not create conditions in which civil society is able to flourish. In 2002, the results of the first parliamentary elections in Bahrain were ominous for secular politicians: the elected lower house was immediately dominated by Islamist parties and not a single woman candidate was elected. The same thing happened in 2006, when the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society took almost half of the 40 seats, although on that occasion one woman was successful. Among the most influential politicians in Bahrain is Dr Salah Ali, a former political exile who now chairs the Al-Menbar Islamic Society, a Sunni group which has seven seats in the lower house and is widely believed to have close links with the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr Ali is a smart politician who talks fluently about the importance of developing Bahrain’s democratic experiment “step by step”, and his party is expected to endorse female candidates in the elections due to take place this autumn. But to outsiders there are more intimations of the influence of political Islam in Bahrain than the government might like to admit. An MP from one of the Islamist parties flinched and refused to shake my hand, and there has been a ferocious campaign by Islamists in the lower house to ban alcohol in Bahrain. A leading light in the campaign is Mohammed Khalid, an outspoken MP from the Al-Menbar Society, who has made a name for himself as an opponent of anything he regards as un-Islamic. Mr Khalid embarrassed the government when he hailed terrorists fighting American forces in Iraq as “heroes”.

Previous posts have discussed the virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American statements of Dr. Salah Soltan, a former US Muslim Brotherhood leader now residing in Bahrain.

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