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Elections in Bahrain

The National Assembly is bicameral with the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, having 40 members elected in single-seat constituencies for a four-year term. The upper house, the Shura Council, has 40 members appointed by the King of Bahrain, with the stated aim of giving a voice to minority communities and technocratic experts within the legislative process. Supporters of the system refer to long established democracies the United Kingdom and Canada operating with this bicameralism with an appointed upper chamber and an elected lower chamber. Opponents of this system point out that unlike the bicameral systems in the UK and Canada, the Bahraini system gives the unelected upper house equal or more legislative power than the elected lower house, allowing the King to control all legislation. Opponents also point out that the current system was imposed unilaterally by the King, violating the 1973 Constitution and a 2001 signed agreement with the Bahraini opposition.

Bahrain’s electoral framework is unfair, with electoral districts deliberately designed to underrepresent Shiites, who form a majority of the citizen population. The government has also allegedly drawn district borders to put certain political societies, including leftist and Sunni Islamist groups, at a disadvantage. The government directorate responsible for administering elections is headed by the justice minister, a member of the royal family, and is not an independent body.[1]


Latest electionsEdit

Forty seats were elected on October 24, 2010, with the runoffs that were needed on October 30.[2] A total of 127 candidates competed in the election, which was also chose municipal councils.

More thant 318,000 were eligible to vote.[3] Head of the electoral commission and Justice Minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa, gave an estimate of turnout of "at least 67 percent," less than the 72% in 2006 and 53.4% in 2002.[4] 127 candidates stood in the election.[5]

The Wefaq National Islamic Society won 18 of the 40 seats, 1 more than the previous election.[2] Combined Shiite and independent (Sunni) candidates won a majority of seats for the first time.[5]

The constitution of parliament following the results of the 2010 elections was altered by the Bahraini parliamentary by-election in September 2011.

e • d Summary of the 23 October and 30 October 2010 Council of Representatives of Bahrain elections results
Party Ideology Seats
Al Wefaq Shia Islamist 18
Al Asalah Sunni Salafist 3
Al-Menbar Islamic Society Sunni Islamist 2
Independents Various 17
Total 40
Source: "Independents the biggest winners". Gulf Daily News. 1 November 2010.

Past electionsEdit

2002 Parliamentary electionEdit

The elections in 2002 were the first since the late emir Shaikh Isa ibn Salman al-Khalifa dissolved the first elected parliament in 1975 and abrogated the 1973 Constitution (see: History of Bahrain).

On 24 October 2002, men and women went to the polls in Bahrain to vote in parliamentary elections for the new National Assembly. The poll was the first national election in which women had the right to vote and stand as candidates (see Women's political rights in Bahrain for more details). The 2002 elections were at the core of democratic reforms launched by King Hamad when he became King in 1999. The Kingdom's political associations are gearing up to contest the general elections in September 2006.

The largest opposition party Al Wefaq called for the restriction of the rights of elected MPs, campaigning for their legislative powers on issues related to the rights of women and children to be given to unelected clerics. In November 2005 they began a campaign for Bahrain's constitution to be amended to reflect this.

According to Rulers in parliamentary elections at 24 October 2002 the Sunni Islamists and independents won 16 of 40 seats. Turnout was 53.2%. In a second round held on October 31, the independents won 12 seats and the Islamists 9. The secular representatives or independents secure a total of 21 of the 40 seats. No women candidates were elected.

Candidates ran as individuals in the 2002 elections, but are organised in parliament as members of de facto political parties known as 'political societies'.

1973 Parliamentary electionsEdit

The first ever parliamentary elections to be held in Bahrain took place in December 1973. Thirty members were elected to the National Assembly of Bahrain, by a franchise restricted to male citizens. An additional 14 ministers of the royally-appointed government became unelected ex officio members of National Assembly to make a total of 44 parliamentarians.


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