Pick up a newspaper or switch on the box this last month, if Bahrain’s elections were mentioned, the headline featured in some form or other the opposition boycott, with the elections expressed in a context of further crackdowns on daily peaceful pro-democracy protests. Enough to bring a tear to ones eye as tear gas reigned supreme on the streets. It has to be said the level of rhetoric used in those reports raised a few eyebrows even indignation here for many an expat as it was obvious misinformation ruled supreme. This latest round of Bahrain bashing however appeared more orchestrated than previous attempts. It was a campaign that saw many Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) players involved in a concerted attempt to define the ground rules and content for media reports from Bahrain in the run up to the elections. With their proxy reporters hogging the wires at Reuters and AP, no stone was left unturned in the portrayal of an ongoing situation, of a popular but suppressed uprising, a Shia led people’s revolution against a despotic Sunni Bahraini monarchy. A leadership accused of “ruling with an iron fist”, of attempting to crush the political life of the country with as ever the US State department nominees - Malinowski’s Boys - Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Al-Wefaq for short, at the fore. The aim to provide credence to the case, that the forthcoming elections given the boycott were no more than an exercise in futility, the last act of a desperate government seeking legitimacy.
The Al-Wefaq led boycott would be absolute we were told, would define for the World the balance of real power in Bahrain, and would doom the elections to failure. Al-Wefaq was after all the chosen representatives of the majority of the people, were they not; they were the sole media suppliers of an elite for interview, the providers of comment, quotes and insight on a stage now set for government failure. Ably aided and abetted as always by an endless stream of MEPI human rights defenders, exiles and tame political pundits, the opposition stranglehold, monopoly on the international media spin for the elections to the uninitiated, thanks to MEPI seemed complete. Simply put one player writes the others quote.
How wrong they all were, step forward the silent suffering but moderate real majority of people in Bahrain. Long ignored, seldom acknowledged the elections were coming they saw an opportunity to speak out, to finally be heard. The first indicators that the pundits had it all wrong came at the time of Candidate registration. The numbers of potential candidates for the Parliamentary and Municipal quickly rocketed pass four hundred, this was not supposed to happen was not part of the subterfuge, where was the boycott. Retrospectively this also appears to be the moment that the alarm bells were sounding, louder than an exploding gas cylinder, in the opposition Matams along the Budaiya Road in Northern Bahrain. What was happening, why was this, the boycott was an obligation surely, had the hierarchy not made it clear, ignore the call at your peril. How come people from all communities, from all walks of life including many women were suddenly prepared to question the voice of authority in Bahrain, the voice of the people - Al-Wefaq? To stand in an opposition stronghold was to say the least a definite social no no.
A reality check was required. A theocratic dictate was being openly ignored thus, never ones to leave things to chance at Al-Wefaq the theocracy went straight to work, the response was instantaneous. At first it started with the issuance of Fatwas, religious edicts making the boycott mandatory for the flock. Next first spread on social media, and then in the press, news of a campaign of intimidation, of the receipt of anonymous threats of violence against candidates, their families and property surfaced. These threats played on the fears and venerability of Shia candidates in particular standing in what were regarded as opposition strongholds. When intimidation failed to deter, the threats were actioned as candidate after candidate were subjected a to a terrifying campaign of violence. Many had their homes, car and other property firebombed. Torched often in the middle of the night, the local papers were filled with harrowing stories of the young families of the candidates having lucky escapes when fleeing burning homes.
True to form the western media choose largely to ignore this campaign of violence against the candidates, instead continued to hammer home the message of Al-Wefaq’s proxy reporters on the wires of Reuters and AP, the story line remained one of boycott. Headlines such as “Bahraini security forces attack and intimidate boycotters of parliamentary elections” were favored, a clear case of reverse engineering. The campaign of violence only eased when foreign embassies condemned the attacks on candidates. The campaign did have it casualties, some candidates withdraw but then who wouldn’t, one positive from the campaign however was that it did harden the resolve of the moderate majority. It became increasing apparent particularly on social media that there was a growing consensus for people to stand fast, Election Day was just around the corner that would be the day to show the world once and for all that those that previously claimed to represent the people of Bahrain were in fact frauds. That the pro-democracy and popularity claims made by Al-Wefaq were bogus, nothing but a thin veneer, a veil for their sectarian theocratic agenda.
On Election Day the supporters of the boycott turned up the heat by trying to bottle up many villages by building barricades to prevent access to local polling stations. Other disruptive barricades were erected on main roads as a means to prevent any potential dissenters from leaving those areas and to disrupt voting in general. Video of the resultant set piece clashes with security personnel as they arrived to clear the obstacles have since made their way onto social media, variously labeled. Despite the intimidation, the barricades, the boycott, the displays of violence, 52.6% of the population voted in the parliamentary polls and over 59% in the municipal which included eligible property owning expatriates. The process was repeated this last weekend when we witnessed the run offs in the second round to decide the final outcome. The results were remarkable; the winners were largely independents; young pro-business and civil society lawmakers, the few MPs with religious ideologies that did make it through found themselves relegated to a very small minority.
The boycott had been broken its popular support exposed as a lie a complete sham, the people of Bahrain had spoken at the ballot box. No longer could bogus opposition political societies claim to speak for or say they represented the majority. In fact given that in 2010 an election staged with out any boycott the turn out was 67% it is now possible to analyze the results and state categorically that the SO called opposition have a power base that represents less than 25% of the population, and that’s on a good day. Any claims that AlWefaq represent an ethnic majority are as malicious as they are untrue.
Should in the future any foreign government representative want to talk to the representatives of the people of Bahrain they should not consider going down the Budaiya road if they value their credibility, I would suggest instead they need look no further than Parliament and the new faces of the House of Representatives. The elections results were democratically obtained whether you like the result or not, the result cannot be ignored.
The entity that the media called the opposition no longer exist, they were OUSTED people need to remember that in the democratic scheme of things world wide it is Voters keepers - Boycotters weepers
High number of candidates in Bahrain elections
Bahrain condemns pre-election attacks Election candidates’ property, municipality building, attacked by arsonist