Manama: With a record turnout during Bahrain’s general elections 2018 to elect 40-member new lower House of the Parliament, the Kingdom of Bahrain has embarked on a new phase of democratic and parliamentary development.
The Kingdom of Bahrain, the first GCC country to introduce the elected parliamentary system in 2002 has successfully held the elections after the completion of four years terms since the people elected the fist lower house of the parliament in 2002, thanks to the reforms introduced by His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa and backed by His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister.
This year’s elections witnessed new emerging trends including the largest participation from the youth and the highest number of female candidates for both lower house of the parliament and the municipality constituencies, showing a growing interest among the future leaders sans gender consideration for holding or contesting for a political office once considered a male dominated arena in this part of the world.
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, the Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments and Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Election Integrity praised the turnout in the second round of the parliamentary and municipal elections, stressing the lack of religious fatwas (edicts) that could have limited eligible voter’s choices.
The minister was speaking at a press conference, with the participation of the Executive Director of Elections Nawaf Hamza, following the sealing of the ballot boxes in the various polling stations where voters cast their ballots from 8 am until 8 pm.
The Minister pointed out to the strong competition in the various constituencies where runoffs were held.
“Bahrain is living a new chapter in democratic development. The electoral process is moving beyond the stage of experience, in addition to the fact that it is a patriotic duty and a personal motivation from the general public,” Shaikh Khalid said.
The minister pointed to the strong competition among the candidates that included a high number of candidates and the impressive turnout of voters who were keen on assuming their patriotic duties.
Shaikh Khalid added that the 2018 elections witnessed a major change in the general trends, where the voter became the top focus of the process, in terms of the evaluation of the candidate and the greater attention to the criteria of competence in order to choose the most apt candidate.
“Such trends were clear and through the media and social networking sites,” he said.
Shaikh Khalid said there were three advantages to the current elections.
“The first is the distinguished presence of Bahraini women and the openness enjoyed by the Bahraini society towards the presence of women in the legislative branch. This reflects the great trust in women and the wish to vote for them,” he said.
“The second advantage is the presence of open constituencies in which all sectors of the society participated. It is a consolidation of the democratic process with the participation of all the spectrums. The third feature is the active participation of the youth. There were at least 50,000 young people in the electorate, For the first time, the age group of 20 – 30 years the largest segment of participation.
The number of women participating in the elections was close to that of men.”
The minister noted that the participation of young people is a catalyst for the future and a sign of the roots of the democratic process with young people who began to deal with the electoral process as an important part of their future. This signals a more promising and effective future.
Answering a question by Bahrain News Agency (BNA) on the measures that could be taken if an election crime was proved legally, the minister clarified that this matter will be vested in the Council of Representatives.
“If the parliament lifts the immunity, the case is referred to the prosecution. If a final judicial decision is taken, new elections are held in the electoral constituency.
The Minister praised the great role of the various state institutions, especially the Ministry of Information and the media in raising voter awareness and contributing positively to the elections. He thanked the Ministry of Interior for its great efforts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for holding the elections in its diplomatic missions abroad, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the e-Government Authority.
Shaikh Khalid concluded by offering congratulations to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, and the people of Bahrain, the real heroes of the democratic process in the Kingdom, on the success of the elections.