Sep 13 2010
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Women take a back seat ahead of Bahrain elections
Monday, Sep 13, 2010
Only 10 have announced plans to run for legislature
Manama As candidates began to sign up, hopes began to fade last night that a high number of women would run for a seat in Bahrain’s lower legislative chamber.
Political hopefuls have five days to register their names in one of the country’s five election supervision bureaus, one for each governorate. Registration for the municipal elections will start on September 20.
However, the number of women who have said they will run has so far not exceeded 10 — compared to 23 in 2006.
Muneera, an academic, narrowly lost in the second round of the 2006 elections to her conservative opponent in a closely contested election.
The non-endorsement of any woman by the three main politico-religious societies, Al Wefaq, Al Asala and the Islamic Menbar, has seriously hampered the chances of female candidates winning despite the optimism expressed by some women’s groups, observers said.
Al Wefaq, the largest society and the parliamentary bloc in the 2006-2010 parliament, said that it supported women candidates, but it was concerned about their chances of winning in any of the 17 constituencies it planned to field candidates.
Al Asala, the flagship of the Salafis in Bahrain, has regularly voiced its opposition to women taking part in political activities.
The Islamic Menbar, like Al Wefaq, is worried about negative reactions from conservative constituents.
The previous lower chamber had only one woman, Latifa Al Gaoud, who made history by becoming the first woman to be elected to a parliament in the Arabian Gulf.
Latifa, a finance expert, last week said she would run again and in the absence so far of a challenger, has a chance of being re-elected for another four-year term from the sixth constituency of the Southern Governorate.
According to election officials, a total of 318,668 Bahrainis are eligible to vote in the parliamentary and municipal council elections on October 23 — and October 30 for the second round in constituencies where no candidate receives at least 50 per cent of the vote.
The Northern Governorate leads among the voting blocs with 107,057 voters, followed by the Central Governorate with 98,258, Muharraq Governorate with 57,233, Manama with 38,824 and the Southern Governorate with 17,295 voters.
However, Muharraq, traditionally the most politicised area in Bahrain, leads in the number of potential candidates with 45, of whom 25 are running independently. Two of its constituencies will feature at least nine candidates. The Manama Governorate has, so far, the lowest number of candidates with only 18 candidates coming to the fore.
The ?non-endorsement of any woman by the three main politico-religious societies, Al Wefaq, Al Asala and the Islamic Menbar, has seriously hampered the chances of female candidates winning despite the optimism expressed by some women’s groups.
By Habib Toumi?Bureau Chief
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