Someon who visited this blog asked an important question: why did the leftist/liberal parties lose popular support in Bahrain, and why did more Islamist leaning parties rise in their place?
To be honest, I'm not an expert on the subject, but here is my sweepingly general (and hence probably wrong) conjecturing:
Each of the avobe two issues (fall of the left, rise of the right) occured because of general regional developments, but they also had specifically Bahraini causes as well. Here is how I perceive the issue to have developed:
Fall of the left:
1. The rise of the left in the fifties, sixties and seventies in Bahrain was necessarily linked with the rise of Nasserism and Pan-Arabism in the whole of the middle east. After the death of Nasser in the seventies, the Arab world did not see another single leader that had the charisma and honesty of Jamal Abdul Nasser. All of the other leaders were more pragmatic, less ideological, and more concerned with their own benefits that Pan Arabic benefits. Naturally, the left was delt a severe blow with the loss of what can be called its god father.
2.Most of the leaders of the left in Bahrain were either exiled, killed, or thrown in jail. It's hard to succesfully to continue run an organization when you are 2000 miles away from home (AbdulRahman Al Nuaimi as an example.)
3. In the seventies, the wealth generated by the oil surge tempered people's ideological fire. When you're income suddenly increases by up to ten times, you kind of lose the urge to keep on fighting for an ideology. Some of the opposition leaders even joined the government and took up ministerial positions.
4. The left in Bahrain had a lot of bickering within it. There was the communist party, the socialist party, the Nasserite party, the Baathis party, etc. , and each of these were at loggerheads with the other. This continues to the present day, where societies such as the NDA and Al Menbar Democratic society are constantly at each others' necks.
The rise of the right:
1. In Bahrain, one of the reasons that could be associated with the rise of the right is their extremely well done organization, especially in the Sunni sect. Islamists were basically the only ones who were involved in general societal organizations and charities. Witness Al Islah or Al Tarbiya Al Islamiya. They, to their credit, were involved actively in collecting charities to build schools, mosques, help orphans, help the Palestinian issue, etc. Thus, people came to know them very well and trust them. This also gave them huge resouces and an impressive organization structure. In fact, Sunni Islamists movements did not start as a political movement at all, but more as societal movement, aiming to collect charities and also correct what they saw as the "excesses" of society that dominated in the seventies and sixties.
2.That is another reason I think, the "excesses of societies" in the seventies, that the Islamists were able to galvanize very well and construe themselves as a reactionary and correctionary force to them. If you look at pictures of Bahrain from the seventies, you would think it's a different country. Girls are all over in Mini Skirts, and I mean MINI skirts. Men had huge affros. Furthermore, the right was able to succesfully argue that Nasserism and co. was a departure from religion, and wrong. The reason we lost to Isreal and saw ourselves humiliated etc. is because we deviated from religion. One could make a connection here to Sayid Qutb, the Egyptian father figure of the Muslim Brotherhood group in the Arabic world.
3. The local tension in Bahrain that rose in the nineties also contributed. The political activity and demonstration at this time was mainly done by people representing the Shia group within Bahrain. The government made sure its propaganda reached the Sunni group in Bahrain, whom it wanted to court, that this was some sort of sinister conspiracy and movemnent by the Shia to take over Bahrain. The rise of the Islamic regime in Iran helped this. The atmosphere spread around that Iran was bickering in Bahrain's local politics, and wanted to take over. Just witness the show trials we had in the nineties of capturing people who worked for Iran and were attempting to overthrow the regime. Thus, a big division was created between Sunnis and Shias. In these situations each people tend to shift towards the groups that would represent their own Sect. Shia religious figures who were seen as representing the Shia population gained support, and Sunni religious figures who were seen as representing the Sunni sect gained support as well. Leftist groups, who were advocating national unity, lost out, as they were viewed suspiciously by both sides. It's interesting how most of the opposition in the fifties up to the seventies were more balanced in terms of Sunni and Shia people. In fact, the majority of the activists were Sunni, and particulary from Muharraq. This completely changed in the nineties, where the activists were almost exclusively shia (except for the remaining old leftist activists.)
4. All popular movements need a hero, a father figure that can resemble that move. The left had Nasser in the wider Arabic world, and had some very distinguished figures in Bahrain. However, most of them were exiled, toned their ideas down and became part of the system, or died. No new "superstars" emerged. The Islamist movements however had an abundance of star examples to point to, both in and outside of Bahrain. The Sunnis could point to and ride on the stellar succes of what they did in the Afghanistan-Soviet war. They even had people who fought in that war, and thus a certain aura surrounded them, just like with the left in the seventies. The Shia Islamists could point to the success of overthrowing the Shah in Iran and to Khomeini. In Bahrain, there were no shortage of heroes either, such as Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri and others.
Anyway, this all I could come up with. If anyone else has a better (or maybe complimentary) theory, please do share!