- Recruit a lot of people to sign up as candidates so that it looks like the elections are SERIOUS BUSINESS.
- Decide which of the candidates are right for you.
- Politely suggest that the other candidates drop out (or, if you must, allow your preferred candidate to run unopposed).
- Your candidate wins.
Thus it is clear that the Bahraini authorities have hit the jackpot with their newest first-female-something-in-the-Gulf, Sawsan al-Taqawi, who has just been declared the winner of the second Northern Governorate constituency (not sure about the location here off-hand; anyone?) after her opponents pulled out of the race. (Imagine that.) Somehow, despite her winning by default, al-Taqawi has received a congratulatory cable from King Hamad claiming that
This success is the result of the progress achieved by Bahraini women in all areas and their participation in the nation's overall development and their determination to contribute to building the future of the country.I guess among the many areas where Bahraini women have "achieved progress" is in mastering the art of registering their names as electoral candidates, since that is all al-Taqawi did. They also have gained proficiency in the creation and deployment of large campaign posters. This one reads: "Sawsan al-Taqawi: You may as well vote for me, because I'm going to win either way."
Yet we've not even reached the real kicker: not only is al-Taqawi the second elected female MP in the Gulf (second only to Bahrain's own Latifah al-Gaoud, who in 2006 and 2010 won unopposed in Bahrain's Southern sixth district--aka "the unpopulated sixth"), but al-Taqawi is also a Shi'i, which makes her the first Shi'i MP not affiliated with al-Wifaq.
I'll give you a second to wrap your mind around that.
Apart from al-Taqawi, finally, winners have also been declared in Muharraq's sixth district ('Abbas al-Madi) and the Central sixth (Jawad Hussain) after the withdrawal of their opponents.
With three seats already down and the likelihood of others to follow, then, there's a good chance that Bahrain's authorities won't even have to rig the elections through (among other means) "general" polling centers located at strategic points such as the Saudi Causeway and the airport, five of which are rumored to be deployed this time around. Because if you're a tribesman from the Saudi branch of the al-Dawasir making the trek to vote in the Bahraini elections, it's a real time-saver to have a polling center right on the causeway. You can vote, grab a quick bite to eat, and then head back to Dammam.
Undeterred by the country's first Shi'i MP from outside its ranks, finally, al-Wifaq continues to fight the good fight using the tried and true method of weekly Friday festivals-cum-rallies. Now in its 11th iteration, this week's National Unity Friday will take place in Tubli under the headline "The Will of the People." (Incidentally, I once traded t-shirts with a Yemeni wearing a shirt from 'Ali 'Abdallah Salih's re-election campaign that has the very same slogan. I have not yet worn the shirt.) That's a 4:30pm start, people, so let's get there on time.
In any event, whatever you might say about al-Wifaq's National Unity festival campaign, you can at least be happy with the improvement of this week's electronic flier, which goes old-school with its photo of the members of Bahrain's leftist National Union Committee of the 1950s, whose mixed Sunni and Shi'i membership sought to unify both committees against the country's rulers. (For more on this see Khuri's book.) Grade: 8.5/10.
Update: the Bahraini government could certainly use the positive PR of its "second woman MP of the Arab Gulf" right about now. The Independent is running a front-page article criticizing Bahrain's invitation to a British arms show (see also the related opinion piece, "A Regime We Should Not Do Business With"). This follows the well-circulated Sept. 9 editorial in The Washington Post titled "Bahrain Needs U.S. Attention Now."
Finally, people digging through the newest round of Wikileaks cables have uncovered additional nuggets from the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain, in particular the three-part series "Political Islam in Bahrain" and the two-part series "Bahraini Political Scene," both of which are making their way around the Internets via a Twitter account, @Absology, specializing in the Bahrain-related Wikileaks cables.
The mostly historical "Political Islam in Bahrain" (from 2006):
Part I: Haven't found this yet..
Part II: Islamists Succeed in Promoting Agenda in Parliament
Part III: The Liberals Strike Back
The more royal family politics-focused "Bahraini Political Scene" (from 2006):
Part I: Government Harasses Democracy Activists as Elections Approach
Part II: Royal Family Conservatives Tighten Reins on Politics
Update 2: Add to that today's front-page article in the New York Times: "Bahrain Boils Under the Lid of Repression."
Update 3: And a funeral procession in Sitra for the most recent dead demonstrator has morphed into a full-blown rally (sound familiar?); see video below. The AP summarizes the ensuing clashes with riot police.