Islamist candidates came out top in the elections, winning 24 of the 40 seats available in the elected chamber, which is to sit alongside an appointed upper house in the bicameral legislature. The king is expected to name the appointed chamber by 15 November, allowing one month before the opening of the first joint session of parliament.
The government says that more than 53 per cent of the electorate voted. Of the candidates that won seats in the five constituencies, 70 per cent were Sunni muslims and only 30 per cent from the Shia community. Four active Shia political groups had called for a boycott of the poll on the grounds that the parliament would only have limited powers.
The recently formed Bahrain Transparency Society has also claimed that many prospective voters were put off by the requirement for passports to be presented at the polling stations.
‘People are afraid of the government,’ says Ibrahim al-Saeed, a board member of the society. ‘It gives housing and jobs, and it can put you in jail. People were suspicious of the passport stamp. It is like a tattoo on our shoulders.’
Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa has rebutted suggestions that the parliament will fall some way short of upholding the reforms introduced in February under the National Action Charter.
‘It will be a place where the deputies, appointed members and ministers will discuss issues of importance to Bahrain and decide on the best solutions for them,’ he said on 6 November during a tour of the Shura Council complex, which will house the new parliament. ‘There will be no pressure on personal freedom. The people of Bahrain are good. There is no fear for personal freedom.’