Bahraini opposition optimistic about election, despite crackdown
Two of Bahrain's leading opposition groups expressed optimism Wednesday about their chances in next month's parliamentary elections, despite concerns over election fraud and an ongoing security crackdown on the small Persian Gulf island, dpa reported.
"I call on (people) to vote for the candidate they believe in," said Munira Fakhro, a candidate for the National Democratic Action Society - also known as Waad. "No one can determine how you cast your ballot after you vote."
But Fakhro said she has already had to contend with the removal of her billboards by municipal authorities and voter-roll inconsistencies in her area.
"We discovered a block in the district I am running for which listed voters in homes that do not exist," she said.
"The 148 non-existing voters in Fakhro's block were either a fraud or a grave mistake, but nonetheless no official was held accountable for it," Waad leader Ebrahim Shareef added.
The last parliamentary elections in 2006 were marred by opposition allegations that the government had manipulated the vote by naturalizing large numbers of Sunni Arabs and Asians, pressuring military personnel to vote for pro-government candidates and using polling stations located outside of voting districts.
The claims were repeatedly rejected by the authorities.
The leader of the country's largest Islamic Shiite opposition group said that the mood in the run-up to this year's elections is tense, given the ongoing security clampdown on what officials say is a terror group that was plotting to overthrow the government.
All those identified in the network are opposition Shiite figures who had openly called for a boycott of the upcoming elections and for changing the country's constitution.
"The timing of the clampdown is questionable. Most observers have noticed that," Al Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman said.
According to Al Wefaq, 256 people had been arrested since the start of the clampdown on August 13, among them 23 leading Shiite opposition figures.
Two others in London have also been accused of membership.
Earlier this month, the public prosecution office said that some of those detained had confessed.
They now face charges including: the setup of a terrorist organization; conspiring to carry out sabotage acts; raising funds for a terrorist organization; inciting hatred via public forums; spreading rumors; and inciting hatred of naturalized citizens.
Government officials said the incidents were a rehearsal for terrorist attacks in other Gulf states.