Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Electoral Rules (and Threats) Cure Bahrain's Sectarian Parliament


We knew that Bahrain was a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, but with the results of the just-concluded 2014 parliamentary elections, the country really is taking it up a notch. In line with the liberal vision articulated by America's Founding Fathers, Bahrain has succeeded in neutralizing -- indeed, all but doing away with -- that thing deemed most dangerous of all to the democratic ideal: what James Madison called "majority factions," otherwise known as political parties.

I've broken my work-induced abstinence from blogging to write something for the Washington Post's political science blog "The Monkey Cage" on this issue of Bahrain's near party-less 2014-2018 parliament, especially as it relates to the Sunni community.  I argue that the pitiful performance of both established and new Sunni political groupings, including members of the Al-Fatih Coalition, cannot be understood as "popular frustration with the prevailing order" alone, not least because TGONU and other groups were designed precisely as an antidote to the established Sunni Islamist coalitions.  Rather, there are specific electoral rules and incentives that directly contributed to Bahrain's new-look parliament.  I discuss in particular the issues of (1) general polling stations; (2) the newly-redrawn electoral districts; and (3) artificially high turnout as a result of threats against non-voters.

The article is here.

Not addressed in the article, finally, is another topic of much discussion presently, including in a piece yesterday by Simon Henderson, namely the question of the future of Khalifa bin Salman, whom King Hamad duly reappointed as prime minister on Sunday following his constitutionally-mandated resignation following the election.  Of course, past reports of Khalifa bin Salman's ill-health and imminent political and/or corporeal death have been greatly exaggerated, and this case may be no different.

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