The main opposition Al-Wefaq group notched a victory in Bahrain's third parliamentary elections, winning all 18 seats it contested.
However, it still fell short of a majority in the 40-member lower house of a bicameral National Assembly, referred to in the local media as Majlis Al-Nuwab, or House of Representatives.
Other important political groups such as Al-Asalah and Minbar, both Sunni traditionalists did very badly in their traditional constituencies and many of their leading candidates failed to win enough votes to avoid a second round of polling. The two groups, which had held a combined 13 seats in the outgoing National Assembly and were part of the ruling bloc, lost more than half of their seats. Among the prominent winners were 17 business-oriented, pro-government candidates. Most of them ran as independents.
Al-Wefaq won 17 seats in the 2006 elections and had supported one independent who too emerged victorious.
Bahrain has a population of about 1 million, of whom about half are expatriate workers with no voting rights. Of the native Bahrainis, men and women over the age of 20 can vote - about 300,000 people. Out of the more than 300,000 eligible voters, nearly 67 percent cast their ballots. In 2006, turnout was 72 percent and 53.4 percent in 2002.
October 21, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
The Bahraini elections have generally passed smoothly, with little criticism from the opposition. The main measure was the high voter turn-out, which at 67 percent, was only slightly less than the last elections and significantly higher than the first elections held after the end of the emergency law. This indicates that the opposition parties that called for boycotting the elections have failed in galvanizing the Shiite majority, who seem to have opted for the more moderate Shiite party, represented in parliament.
In fact, Al Wefaq turned out to be the main winner of the elections with a clear mandate from the country's Shiite community. It now remains to see how the Sunni-dominated government would try to diffuse the civil unrest that has preceded the elections. The elections are therefore an overall positive development for Bahrain but the long-term success depends on measures the government needs to take to improve the overall economic conditions of the Shiite population, as well as allowing for greater participation in government.
The figure below shows the distribution of seats in the previous and new parliaments.