Bahrain’s opposition is boycotting upcoming parliamentary elections, reasoning that the state’s power structures, including the parliament and the electoral process, are at the core of the country’s long-running political disputes, notes Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow in the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House.
For decades, opposition movements have sought to place checks on the power of the monarchy and obtain more power for elected representatives, she writes for Carnegie’s Sada Journal:
For its part, the government has hoped that by offering a space in which elected representatives can influence legislation, it would be able to contain demands for more radical political change. But the current parliamentary set-up lacks credibility with a large proportion—likely the majority—of the population. The upcoming elections are therefore likely to prompt more opposition protests, rather than provide a means of channeling and containing opposition activity.
The last time Bahrain faced an uprising, in the 1990s, a large-scale protest movement called on the ruler to reinstate the country’s short-lived post-independence parliament, which was established in 1973 and abolished two years later. …
Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the main opposition movement, and several other opposition groups have already tried boycotting the parliament, in 2002, and have also tried participating in it, in 2006 and 2010. But neither approach has brought about major political change, compared with the more dramatic effects of the political succession in 1999 or the mass uprising in 2011.
“The country’s various opposition groups are seeking something else that could once again change the game and break the political impasse, whether this is a negotiated transition (potentially empowering the country’s crown prince and weakening the more conservative power holders in the royal family), a decisive change to international policy toward Bahrain, or a fresh internal revolutionary upsurge,” she writes.