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‘Bahrain regime abused polls to burnish image, endorse normalization with Israel’

Bahraini poll clerks prepare ballot boxes at a polling station on the island of Muharraq, north of the capital Manama, during parliamentary elections, on November 12, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The spokesman for a Bahraini opposition political organization has repudiated the latest parliamentary elections in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, stating that the ruling Al Khalifah regime exploited the polls in order to polish its international image and endorse its normalization and establishment of diplomatic ties with the occupying Israeli regime.

Abdul Ghani al-Khanjar, the spokesman for Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy, said the November 12 elections were largely boycotted by opposition groups, nationalist and Islamic movements, as well as people from all walks of life.

“The most important reason for the boycott of the elections is that legislature is a complete farce in Bahrain and the upshot of a non-consensual constitution. The bills and pieces of legislation passed by such a parliament are, therefore, detrimental to our nation,” he said.

“Over the years, the Bahraini parliament has served as a venue where laws severely harmful to our people have been adopted. This sham parliament was formed in an incredibly repressive environment by the governing regime. This means that our young people cannot involve themselves in the parliament, as it introduces unjust laws that hurt the nation both at domestic and international levels,” Khanjar highlighted.

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The senior Bahraini opposition figure noted, “The main demands of our people are the establishment of the right to seal their own destiny, and that people must be the source of power in the country and benefit from freedoms of opinion and expression as well as civil liberties.”

“People are also calling for an end to sectarian discrimination and repressive measures in the country. Opposition groups have already put forward several initiatives. Movements like February 14 Youth Coalition, Bahrain Freedom Movement, and Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy have presented viable proposals and urged a new constitution that would grant people the right to determine the political structure of the country and closely align the ruling establishment to their aspirations,” Khanjat pointed out.

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“The Bahraini regime abused the latest elections to burnish its international image and endorse its normalization of diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime. The new parliament will definitely be much worse than its predecessors,” he said.

On Saturday, Bahrain held parliamentary elections in an environment that rights groups describe as “political repression” under the Al Khalifah regime.

More than 330 candidates, including 73 women, competed to join the 40-seat Council of Representatives – the lower house of parliament.

“This election will not introduce any change,” Ali Abdulemam, a Britain-based Bahraini human rights activist, said.

“Without the opposition, we will not have a healthy country,” he told AFP.

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The restrictions ignited calls for a boycott of Saturday's elections which come more than a decade after the 2011 popular uprising.

Since then, authorities have imprisoned hundreds of dissidents – including Wefaq's leader Sheikh Ali Salman – and stripped many of their citizenship.

International human rights organizations have argued that the vote is being held in an “environment of political repression.”

Citing Bahraini civil society figures, the rights groups said the retroactive bans have affected between 6,000 and 11,000 Bahraini citizens.

The elections “offer little hope for any freer and fairer outcomes,” they said.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel in an event in Washington in September 2020. Sudan and Morocco followed suit later that year. Palestinians have condemned the deals as a treacherous “stab in the back.”

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