2022 Portfolios: Elections Without Voters, A Meager 35% Turnout
2023-12-07 - 1:26 p
Bahrain Mirror (2022 Portfolios): In November 2022, Bahrain witnessed new legislative elections, yet they were much like their predecessors. The ruling family selected who had the right to vote and who could run, excluding those they deemed undesirable from the familial electoral affair.
The ruling family attempted to boost the participation rate by eliminating tens of thousands of names from electoral lists and threatening citizens who didn't cast their votes with the denial of government services. However, signs of participation were very limited.
According to opposition figures, the turnout did not surpass 35%, indicating the repeated failure of successive councils to meet citizens' aspirations. The parliament, instead of serving the people, became a tool for rubber-stamping royal decrees that contributed to the deterioration of citizens' living conditions.
In its final year, the parliament approved decrees doubling the value-added tax and amending the retirement law, raising the retirement age and freezing the annual increase for retirees, originally set at 3%. These measures adversely affected thousands of families.
The opposition urged its supporters to boycott the elections. Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim stated that "the upcoming parliamentary elections in Bahrain are a catastrophe for the people, according to the official plan designed to tamper with them, [these elections] constitute a fabricated attestation to the people's consent to their marginalization, denial of their freedom, and violation of all their rights." He called on those intending to participate to reconsider with intellect and conscience.
Six opposition parties, including the Islamic Al-Wefaq National Society, the Islamic Action Society, the Al-Wafaa Islamic Party, the February 14 Coalition, the Bahrain Freedom Movement, and the Haq Movement for Liberties and Democracy, announced their boycott of the elections.
These parties described the elections as a "pictorial process devoid of legitimacy and popular representation." They affirmed that the Bahraini regime exploits these elections for more authoritarianism, control, confiscation of popular will, seizing of wealth, looting of the country's resources, raising of taxes, and further normalization with Zionists, crimes against human rights, and corruption.
Previous royal decrees prohibited the participation of the opposition in the elections. Parties aligned with the opposition were also barred from participating to appease Gulf alliances, especially regarding excluding the Muslim Brotherhood from the political scene.
The Islamic Minbar (Muslim Brotherhood) announced that it would not contest the elections with a list representing the group. Instead, it would only call on its supporters to vote.
Opposition constituencies witnessed extremely low turnout, with some areas not exceeding a 20% participation rate. Candidates won parliamentary seats with less than 15% of the votes.
The absence of crucial electoral lists representing political parties significantly impacted the number of candidates. The elections had the highest nomination rate, with at least 8 candidates competing in each electoral district, indicating a shift towards a "political lottery."
The government obligated personnel in the Bahrain Defense Force and General Security Force (mostly naturalized citizens) to cast their votes for specific candidates.
The opposition circulated videos showing naturalized citizens voting in their home countries like Pakistan and Jordan. Saudis also flocked to vote through the King Fahd Causeway center.
In conclusion, the year 2022 marked another round of elections in Bahrain, revealing the ongoing challenges to achieving genuine democratic processes and reflecting the government's persistent attempts to control and manipulate the electoral landscape.