Bahrain: a sham vote
The Gulf kingdom of Bahrain is going to the polls on 24 November – but don’t expect much to change. King Hamad has banned the main opposition parties since the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprising in 2011 and shut down the country’s only independent newspaper last year.
Whatever happens, the King’s uncle will remain prime minister – a post he has held since 1971 – making him the longest serving PM anywhere in the world. The election only extends to the powerless lower house of Bahrain’s parliament; membership of the upper house is decided by the King.
Bahrain’s largest leftwing party, the Wa’ad (formerly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Bahrain), was dissolved in 2017, a few years after its headquarters were torched. Al-Wefaq, a popular party among the Shi’a Muslim majority, was disbanded and some of its MPs tortured.
A sham democracy
Protest at this sham democracy has spilled onto the streets of London, where exiled activist Ali Mushaima launched a hunger strike outside the Bahraini Embassy on 1 August. His father, Hassan, is the secretary general of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy – a non-sectarian party that tries to unite Bahrain’s Shi’a, Sunni and secular communities.
Hassan was sentenced to life in prison for playing a leading, nonviolent role in the Arab Spring. The now 70-year-old is recovering from cancer and has struggled to access healthcare in jail.
His son went without food for a remarkable 46 days, shedding 16 kilos – a fifth of his body weight. His commitment rattled the Bahraini authorities, who began to treat Ali’s father for some of his ailments – albeit temporarily. Hassan certainly won’t be allowed to run in this election, which his son Ali describes as a ‘big joke’ and a ‘fake’.
Help us produce more like this
Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.