MANAMA // One of Bahrain's main opposition parties yesterday announced it will boycott the country's parliamentary election and called for reform of the island kingdom's political system. After weeks of speculation that the Islamic Action Society, known as Amal, would not take part, the group's chairman confirmed it would boycott the election on October 23.
"We will not go in this election because it is bad and the whole political operation is bad," Sheikh Mohammed al Mahfoodh, the secretary general of Amal, said yesterday. "There is no democracy and no real parliament, just a picture of a parliament." Sheikh Mohammed cited continued concerns about the lack of political reform, as well as the country's parliamentary system, which includes a 40-member appointed shura, or consultative, council and a 40-member elected house of representatives.
"The political system should change. We want change and we are working for change," Sheikh Mohammed said. "It is our right to get real democracy and we want to share in the political system, but we don't want to just be employees. Now the members of parliament are just employees who get a big salary." Amal, the country's second largest Shiite opposition group, has about 2,000 registered members, but Sheikh Mohammed said there are many more who follow the movement, which is linked to the Shirazi sect.
"We can't force the people to vote or not to vote, but we will do our best to make the people understand that voting is not good," Sheikh Mohammed said. "We want to make more pressure on the government to change." It was not clear whether Amal members will run in the municipal elections, which will also take place on October 23. The Al Haq Movement and Wafa, a recently formed Shiite party, have already announced their intentions to boycott the elections.
During a cabinet session this month, King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa urged people "to practice their constitutional rights in choosing their representatives" to ensure "the continuity of the democratic process in the kingdom", according to government statements. The election will be the third since a raft of political reforms were introduced by King Hamad in 2002. In the last election, in 2006, Amal did not field candidates, although some of its members did unsuccessfully stand as independents.
Bahrain is facing political unrest just two months before the country goes to the polls, following the recent arrests of scores of opposition figures and supporters. Protests have turned violent, resulting in injuries, as well as damage to public infrastructure. @Email:email@example.com