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Bahrain opposition calls for boycott of upcoming elections

November elections may do little to end the standoff between Bahrain's Sunni-led government and leaders of the country's Shiite majority.

The Al Khalifa royals hope that Bahrain’s upcoming quadrennial elections, set to take place Nov. 24 — and Dec. 1, if runoffs are necessary — will mark “a new chapter of the march of democratic development” in the island kingdom. Yet there is good reason to doubt that these elections will serve to enhance the ruling family’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Shiite opposition. Indeed, on Oct. 9, Bahrain’s dominant Shiite opposition group — Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society —called for a national boycott of the elections. This further indicates the extent to which many Bahraini Shiites believe that they are not genuinely represented in the government and that participating in next month’s elections for the lower-house would be counterproductive to their struggle.  

Bahraini authorities dissolved Al-Wefaq in 2016, accusing the Shiite Islamist society of “harboring terrorism,” and issued a law in May that prohibits its leaders and members from running in next month’s elections. Last year, the regime also dissolved the dominant secular, left-wing group al-Wa’ad. Amid this contraction of political space, more Shiite oppositionists have turned to militancy after abandoning hope for democratic reform in their country. This radicalization of some Shiites in Bahrain has taken place against the backdrop of the regime’s hard-liners gaining leverage over the monarchy’s more moderate elements that are more open to making concessions to the Shiite opposition.

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