On the eve of the first general elections since 1973, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called on his subjects to put aside their grievances and have their say in the formation of a bicameral parliament. Speaking on national television on 23 October, the king called on Bahrainis to fulfil their duty and vote. However, many were expected to abide by a boycott supported by four leading Shia Muslim groups.
The opposition groups are calling for a revision to the kingdom’s constitution announced on 14 February, in line with the previous constitutional franchise of 1973. They also want more power to be devolved to the 40-member chamber of deputies, which under the present legislation will sit under an upper house to be appointed by the king.
The number of candidates standing for election was hit by the boycott. By the time polling stations opened on 24 October, 16 of the 190 registered to stand had already pulled out of the race, leaving three seats uncontested. The elections are Bahrain’s first since the country’s last parliament was suspended in 1975.
Following the elections, there is expected to be a major reshuffle of government posts (MEED 18:10:02, Cover Story).