Alright, I suspect that politics is usually not the best introduction to a blog, but this seems to be the main talking point in Bahrain nowadays. Everyone from esteemed MPs to kids playing football on the street seem to be talking about it, from banning big brother to the constitution issue. Comments on these and other issues will come in due time, but first I thought that a general introduction to the situation is needed. It seems that so much dust has been raised around the issue that a lot of people (myself included) have lost sight of the main players in the game. Hence, I took the liberty of digging up some info on the big guns of politics in Bahrain today.
Obviously, the biggest player of all is the government, headed by the king and prime minister. But the area where most of the spotlight has focused nowadays is on the political parties (or more correctly, "societies" as they like to be called!), whether those who chose to participate in parliament or not. Some of these parties decided to participate in elections in the national assembly, which is made of an elected parliament and a consultative council (but the second has been broadly useless so far, so I won't comment much on it), and others decided to boycott parliament on the principle that they disagree with the new constitution. This is a pretty intricate issue, and an explanation of the of issues surrounding the new and old constitution need to be outlined, but here I am just going to try to give a brief overview of the main parties. So before I lose the plot too much, here is the laydown as I see it:
In the red corner: the participators
1.Al Asalah society: a conservative sunni "islamist" party and is widely seen as the political wing of the Islamic education charity (jam3iyat al tarbiya al islamiya). Their ideology derives mainly from the salafi movement, and they seem to advocate a strict interpretation of the sharia law. The society has five MPs in parliament.
big players: Adel Al-moaudah (leader), Isa Al-Muttawa, Khalil Al-Mehindi
note: some other MPs, such as Jassim Al-Saidi, are formally independent, but clearly have an agenda very similar to that of Al-Asalah
2.Al menbar national islamic society An offshoot of the muslim brotherhood. Also has a sunni islamic ideology and is seen to be the political wing of Al Islah society. It is seen as more pragmatic than Al- Asalah. The society Has seven MPs in parliament.
big players: Dr. Salah Ali (leader, family physician), Sheikh Isa Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa (Al Islah Society Leader)
Of course there are other parties, such as the national charter society, but due to their limited influence, and my lack of knowledge about them, I'm not going to comment on them. Any info. is greatly appreciated.
Furthermore, there are a lot of independent MPs, who may have links to certain parties, but are not member of any. Promiment names inclue Fareed Gahzee (of fame from the Gosi and pension funds scandal) and Abdul Nabi Salman.
In the blue corner: the boycotters
1.Al wefaq Islamic society Widely regarded as the biggest party in bahrain, it represent the Shia section in Bahrain. Islamic in nature, it draws its power from the fact that its leaders are the most prominent activists for reform in the 90s.
Big Players: Ali Salman, Hassan Mshaimei, and many others...
2. The Islamic Action Society It's main supporters also come from the shia part of bahrain, but they represent the Shirazi section within the Shias.
Big Players: Sheikh Mohammed Mahfoudh
3. National Democratic Action Society Represents a coalition of leftists, socialists, independents and liberals. Deriving most of its support from professionals and the upper-middle class of society, its main platform is no segregation between shia/sunni, men and women.
Big players: Abdulrahman Al Nouaimi, Jaleila Al Sayed, Ibrahim Sharif Al-Sayed
4.The national assembly societ Similar to 3. but with a more ba'athist/nationalist history and agenda.
Big players: Rasool Al-Jishi
Alright, enough with formalities, I'm getting bored as it is already. Basically, the laydown as I see it is the following: In the fifties up to the seventies, the major players in the game were leftist-leaning nationalists, socialist, communist, and nasserites, and this was reflected in the first (1970s) parliament. Societies 3. and 4. still represent remnants of that old era, with the addition of more liberal attitudes and the disbandment of more communist leaning- attitudes. From the 1990s on, however, due to the events in bahrain, the situation unfortunately more polarized on religious/sectarian issues. Hence, we nowadays see the rise of the religious groups, both alasalah and al menbar representing sunnis, and alwasat and alamal (Islamic action) representing shias. Unfortunately, more liberal minded and secular groups have seen their support dwindle, as in a society polarized by two extremes, people tend to shift to the extreme that they think will support their "type" (whether shia or sunni).
I do think, however, the situation is changing, especially in the last year, where people have started focusing more on issues than religious background. Granted, a lot of these issues are still viewed and coloured by religious tension (sunnis accuse shias of boycotting the parliament, shias accuse sunnis of blindly putting faith in the royal family), but hopefully, with time, people will realize that this is fruitless, and leads to more nation dividing than nation building