This Saturday, 200 representatives will vote on the future of The Gathering of National Unity (TGONU) or the more English friendly “National Unity Assembly” (NUA). They will listen to three presentations discussing how the movement will register themselves as a legitimate organisation under Bahraini law. The options on the table are:
- A charity/social society
- Political coalition between five societies (Al-Minbar Al-Islami, Al-Asalah, Al-Adala (Justice), Al-Shura Society and Al-Wasat Al-Arabi Al-Islami)
- New political society
Anatomy of TGONU
Before I go ahead and explain each of the options and my thoughts on them, we have to understand the make up of the current TGONU:
- Members and supporters of the five political societies
- Sunni Islamic social societies/charities
- Religious minorities (Jews, Christians, Buhra)
- Politically unactive Bahrainis (Average Mos and Fatimas) and military personnel
- Loyalist Shias
The most notable groups in TGONU are the religious minorities who traditionally were not politically represented on a social level despite having representation at Shura Council level. The predominately Sunni politically inactive groups are the largest and most vital group within TGONU. In addition to being the largest group, they are also the most colourful and varied group as it consists of military personnel, liberals, conservatives, Islamist hardliners, Al-Khalifa loyalists, moderates and technocrats from all walks of life. This group also represents a relatively young demographic 21-40 year olds.
As for the political societies in TGONU, these are their political stances in a nutshell:
- Al-Minbar Al-Islami: Muslim Brotherhood
- Al-Asala: Salafist party
- Al-Adala: Liberal with ties to Islamist movements
- Al-Shura Society: Islamic society with representations of different Sunni schools of thought
- Al-Wasat Al-Arabi Al-Islami: Arab Nationalist movement with Islamic influences
- Social Society/Charity
- Gathers all elements of TGONU under one umbrella lawfully i.e. military personnel cannot join political societies under Bahraini law.
- TGONU will push for social reforms as pressure group and express their demands to already established political societies represented in parliament.Cons:
- Has no direct political influence and cannot hold any political activities under Bahraini law.
- Possibility to be reduced to mere charity work without any true social influence in the Bahraini society.Supporters: Mainly members of Al-Asala Society (Salafis)
- Political Coalition
- Similar to current layout gaining a shared vision and goal between political societies.
- As these societies are already registered under Bahraini law, there is no need to gain registration to enter the National Dialogue in July.Cons
- Sunni society coalitions have failed in the past most notably Al-Asala and Al-Minbar Al-Islami’s fallout prior the 2010 elections.
- Politically inactive Bahrainis will be without representation as many do not trust Al-Asala and Al-Minbar Al-Islami after their poor showing in parliament from 2002-2010.Supporters: Mainly Al-Minbar Al-Islami and Al-Eslah Charity members.
- Political Society
- TGONU becomes a registered society to represent previously unrepresented groups and brings in the expertise of the other five societies in addition to new younger members and ideas.
- Becomes a truly legitimate force in the Bahraini political sphere as many criticisms from opposition supporters saying that TGONU are an unlawful group and being.
- Despite already receiving legitimacy from Bahrain’s leadership and guaranteed a say in the National Dialogue, registering as a political society shows good faith in Bahrain’s law and order and TGONU belief in lawful and peaceful political activity.Cons
- Dissolvement of several political societies or the weakening of other societies as leadership figures will need to hand in their resignations to officially join the newly established society.
- Losing the military personnel base as they are not allowed to join any political activity (with exception to voting in general elections).
- Being tied down within Bahrain’s Political Societies Law which at this moment of time is quite rigid and constraining.
Supporters: Mainly Al-Adala, Al-Shura and many politically inactive groups.
I personally don’t trust the big two Islamist groups Al-Minbar Al-Islami and Al-Asala as they approach political work with a “charity work” mentality – “Feed the hunger and give shelter to the poor” with a great neglect to Bahrainis’ other rights. Al-Minbar Al-Islami also has carried a pretty sectarian and elitist agenda which I find very damaging and I fear that under a political coalition, they will try to bully their way back in representing the Sunni masses.
The recent crisis has truly opened the eyes of many young Bahrainis and sparked the urge to become more politically active and a hunger to learn and understand their rights and the laws of Bahrain, where once upon a time those things were the worries of the government not the average Mo and Fatima.
I personally will accept whatever the 200 choose (Alayam newspaper believes 70% will choose to turn into a political society) and I hope that they will help balance the new political power triangle of Sunni+others and Shia+”liberal” and “democratic” oppostions with the government and the Al-Khalifa royal family and have a fruitful dialogue in July.
The Bahrain 2010 elections concluded this morning, with nine of the remaining seats settled in a 2nd round of voting. Al-Minbar Al-Islami bloc won only two of four seats with Dr. Ali Ahmed beating Waad’s Ebrahim Sharif by a small 200 vote margin (Muharraq 3rd) and Mohamed Al-Imadi fending off Asala-backed Independant Jamal Dawood (Northern 6th). Al-Asala bloc won two extra seats making their tally to four seats in parliament where bloc leader Ghanim Al-Buainain passed by Abdulnaser Ibrahim (Muharraq 8th) and 1st timer Ali Al-Zayed beat Al-Minbar Al-Islami’s head Dr. Abdullateef Al-Shaikh (Central 8th) by the slimmest margin of 31 votes!
The remaining five seats were won by Independant candidates kicking out two Minbar, one Al-Asala and Waad’s Dr. Muneera Fakhro. Southern 3rd’s Ahmed Al-Mulla won his seat after his opponent Sh.Sharikh Al-Doseri received orders from the Doseri Tribe’s head for Al-Dammam (KSA) and Bahrain, Sh. Isa bin Ali Al-Doseri to step down as Ahmed Al-Mulla (retired military judge and counselor at the Foreign Ministry) was clearly the “more qualified candidate” in a gesture of Bedouin generosity.
Shapes of things to come
Despite the loss of nearly half of the previous Minbar-Asala alliance’s seats, the 2010 parliament is still an Islamist dominated one with 18 Al-Wefaq, four Al-Asala, two Minbar and Jassim Al-Saeedi, the extreme Salafi Independant making a total of 25 seats.
From the remaining fifteen, there are whispers of the creation of an “Economic bloc” with Isa Al-Kooheji, Adel Al-Asoumi, Othman Al-Rayis, Latifa Al-Gaoud and Abdulla Al-Dossary all having some business backgrounds.
This parliament as sixteen new faces with three MPs (Adnan Al-Malki, Isa Al-Qadhi and Abdulmajeed Al-Sibi’a) upgrading from the Municipality Councils.
Muharraq’s 2nd district made history today by voting in Ms. Fatima Salman as the first woman to be voted in as a Municipality Council member after women failed to get into office in 2002 and 2006.
Two other women reached the 2nd round of voting with Waad’s Dr. Muneera Fakhro losing to Isa Al-Qadhi for MP of Central 4th and Ms. Subah Al-Doseri losing to Ali Al-Moqla for Municipality Council seat in Muharraq’s 7th by a small 350 vote margin.
Nationalists despite defeat should be upbeat
All three of Waad’s candidates failed to win in their districts, despite doing an excellent job with promoting their campaigns and squashing their “terror supporter” tag from the mass media to reach the 2nd round in two districts and receiving a 45% vote with Sami Siyadi.
Al-Minbar Al-Taqadomi’s head Dr. Hasan Madan gave Al-Wefaq’s Jawad Fairooz a scare by winning an impressive 4788 votes (44%) in Northern 8th district and he is already aiming at running for MP again in 2014 by keeping close to his voters.
General Polling stations and military staff
The ghost of the 2006 election General Polling stations where large numbers of “mystery ballots” from these stations changed the outcome in a number of districts (most notably against Waad candidates) haunted many candidates in 2010, but up to this moment there is no sign of their influence in any of the races as all districts were won and lost inside their branch polling stations without them changing the outcome.
The winner of the Halloween costume contest this year were the military zombies who were directed to whom they will cast their votes beforehand and vote for “pro govt.” candidates, as confirmed by a number of friends and acquaintances.
Let’s all hope that these 40 MPs try to improve the quality of our lives by ensuring our rights and giving us opportunities to grow and develop as a country.
Well, the first round results looked very different from my “Fantasy 35″ with Al-Wefaq getting full marks with 18/18 districts keeping their status as the largest bloc in parliament. Al-Asala bloc is now slimmer winning only 2 seats and three candidates (Ebrahim Bu-Sandal, Ghanim Al-Buainain and Ali Zayed) going to the 2nd round. Al-Minbar on the other hand look on the verge of extinction as they have yet to win a single seat with 4 candidates fighting for their representation in the 2nd round.
As for Waad, only Sami Siyadi has lost the elections against Othman Al-Rayis (Independant) with both Ebrahim Shairf and Dr. Munira Fakhro into the 2nd round. If both candidates win their seats the opposition bloc will take up half of the parliament which is encouraging with the rise of Independants and we might see some progress with less sectarian tensions inshalla.
Al-Asala/ Al-Minbar Fallout:
Both blocs created a coalition in 2006 winning over 10 seats between them, but the scenario has changed in 2010 as a well documented fallout has led candidates from both blocs battle it out most notably in the 7th and 8th Central districts as MP Abdulhaleem Murad (Al-Asala) fought out fierce competition from Abdulrahman Al-Hasan (Minbar), whereas in the 8th Central the Asala-Minbar clashes has led to 2nd rounds in both the Parliamentary elections with Dr. Abdullatif Al-Shaikh, the head of the Minbar bloc facing off with 1st timer Ali Zayed of Al-Asala and in the Municipality elections with Waleed Hijris , two time winner from Al-Minbar against Yousif Al-Sabbagh of Al-Asala.
So far, Al-Asala has a slight advantage as many voters are dissapointed with Al-Minbar’s showing in the two previous parliaments and are more likely to vote against them. This fallout has also benefitted a number of Independant candidates with Abdulla bin Huwail (2nd Southern) and Isa Kooheji (5th Muharraq) bulldozing over Mohammed al-Muhanidi of Al-Asala (2nd Southern) and both Rashid Abdulrahman (Asala) and Dr. Adnan Bu-Motai’a (Minbar) in the 5th Muharraq respectively.