Elections: Opportunity to Eradicate Violence

It is most likely that the council and parliamentary elections, expected to take place this month, will be affected by the security confrontations, which have yet to be resolved judicially. The repercussions of the current unrest in the media, human rights and political fields are also expected to leave their mark on the upcoming elections. The elections come at a time when the implications of recent violence are on-going forcing some observers to anticipate changing the elections date. However, the Government confirmed that the elections will take place on time.

Elections are clearly an essential part of the democratic process, and the appropriate channel for expressing opinions and political positions, as well as a means of protecting the interests of groups and political parties. Elections are an alternative route to violent change, through which interests are protected and rights are obtained by peaceful competition.

Participation in the administration of public affairs is one of the fundamental human rights. The Bahraini constitution states that citizens, both male and female, have the right to participate in public affairs and enjoy political rights, including the right to vote and nominate.

More than ever before, Bahrain is currently in desperate need for the elections to be a success. This is due to the presence of violence as an alternative for what has so far been achieved, and the doubts surrounding the political process as a whole. Although there are indications that the upcoming elections will be successful, it is necessary to remember that any setbacks in the political process will be considered a success for the extremists’ choice.

Successful elections this time mean an increase in the number of voters and the possibility of women winning seats in Parliament. The elections success will also depend on whether it results in a big change in the performance of MPs, and their relations with the Executive Authority and the extent of its flexibility.

In order for the elections to be a success and gain local and international recognition, they must be credible. Elections can only be described as free if they allow the opportunity for the public to be expressed fully. This necessitates guaranteeing freedom of: expression, media, assembly, movement and establishing societies, as well as providing security for people during the elections, and allowing them to vote without fear or pressure.

Moreover, in order to guarantee the integrity of the elections, two conditions must be met: the first relates to procedures, which include equality, confidentiality and ensuring that the elections take place periodically. The second concerns the results, which should reflect the voters’ free will.

Monitoring is an effective means of guaranteeing credible elections, as the presence of monitors decreases the possibility of fraud, instils trust in voters and increases their ability to participate in elections, and to freely express their political will without any doubts or fear.

In the 2002 and 2006 elections, monitoring was limited to local societies represented by the Bahrain Human Rights Society and the Transparency Society. These two societies, as well as the National Institution for Human Rights are expected to monitor the 2010 elections. Government apparatuses are also required to provide all the necessary help to the monitors so they can perform their duty correctly. Monitoring should cover all stages of the elections, including the campaigning stage, registration of voters, voting, counting, results and follow ups. Independent courts should also play an important role in elections through prompt dealing with voters’ complaints.

Public demands can be fulfilled through elected representatives who should reflect the aspirations of their voters and defend their interests inside Parliament. MPs should also reassure voters that their demands will be presented and followed-up in Parliament. This requires them to have a high level of performance and awareness, in order to translate their slogans into actions. Additionally, bylaws that sometimes hinder the work of MPs should be amended.

It should also be stressed that constructive cooperation between the House of Representatives and the Shura Council on one hand, and the Government on the other hand, is essential so that laws can be passed quickly and delays be avoided, such as the delay in passing the Press Law.

The integrity of the upcoming elections, the acceptance of results, the seriousness and mature performance of MPs to represent the voters effectively, and the cooperation of the Executive and Legislative Authorities should result in a decrease in violence, whatever its motives.