Report summary: Bahrain- Elections Without Integrity

Three human rights organisations, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights,Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam DHR), and Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), havereleaseda new report titled: “Bahrain- Elections Without Integrity”. The report looks at the violations and legal breaches which have taken place ahead of the upcoming 2018 elections for Bahrain’s fifth parliamentary term. The report, consisting of 44 pages, covers the following topics: the restricted political environment, reprisals taken against former MPs, the constitutional makeup, forms of political isolation, the election’s violations of international standards, the absence of international monitoring, and the marginalisation of electoral districts.
The following topics are also covered in detail: breaches of electoral register lists (numbering tens of thousands), unfair distribution of electoral districts, the role of state media in excluding opposing views, and heads of electoral committees involved in human rights violations.

  • The electoral process coincided with Bahraini authorities shutting down the democratic space in Bahrain, restricting freedom of expression, clamping down on freedom of assembly and association, and carrying out and escalating violations with total impunity, including: arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, citizenship revocations, torture and ill-treatment, illegal raids on homes and structures, restricting freedom of movement, prosecuting activists, hate-speech, extra-judicial killings, and dissolving political parties.
  • Governmental security campaigns have ensued against 14 former MPs, targeted for exercising their free speech, including by Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq Sheikh Ali Salman, who chaired electoral bloc represented more than 60%.
  • The electoral process does not abide by principles of integrity, efficiency and effectiveness, and lacks the confidence of the public and political parties.
  • The Supreme Committee for General Supervision of the Soundness of Elections does not abide by international electoral standards, in terms its formation, which is appointed by the King and is composed of members of the executive branch, as well as its judges who are also appointed in contravention of international standards.
  • Some heads of the committees are involved in gross human rights violations, including: 13 heads of supervisory centres and three heads of public centres.
  • The electoral process is based on an unfair electoral system, which does not distribute electoral districts fairly among citizens, contravening the international electoral standard of “one vote for every citizen”. An example of this in the area of al-Riffa (southern province) which votes for six parliamentary seats, comprising 15% of the parliament, whereas the northern province, consisting of 40 areas, only votes for twelve MPs. Number ten constituency in the southern province make up only 12% of the electorate in number twelve constituency in the northern province.
  • Electoral register lists prevent many from running or casting their vote due to their political affiliation or having boycotted previous elections.
  • The Bahraini judiciary lacks public confidence and has been condemned by international lawyers for not being independent, carrying out sentences as a form of “political persecution”, and reflecting a false form of justice. As such, it is impossible to be confident in its role in overseeing the electoral process and granting voter rights, including the right to vote or run as a candidate.
  • Press freedom in Bahrain has reached a dangerous scale, and violations against journalists continue, including: extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, the monopoly of state TV, radio and newspapers, the closing down of al-Wasat newspaper, withdrawing journalism licences for foreign journalists, and arresting and fining journalists for “working without a permit”.
  • State media continues to carrying out incitement against the opposition for exercising its free speech, and this has been reflected in the behaviour of state media towards the elections. After monitoring a total of 2070 media articles from the four state newspapers between 20 October 2017 and 21 November 2018, the percentage of opinions opposing the electoral process was 0%. Furthermore, 81 media articles from these same newspapers included incitement against human rights defenders, political activists and citizens.
  • By monitoring what was published on Bahrain state TV and the official website of the Bahrain News Agency, we found the following

-TV programmes- by comparing four electoral programmes from 29 August 2018 and 21 November 2018 we found the following:
Total duration of programs: 945: 02 minutes, total number of guests: 75 guests, total public opinion reviews: 25, total of Tv reports: 32, in addition to 13 Tv reports reviewed 64 tweets, and total episodes offered: 44 episodes, and by analyzing 14 short advertising breaks were held between 15/11/2018 and 18/11/2018, in which been reviewed 243 times, and through monitoring of the election news published by the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) from 10/09/2018 until 21/11/2018, during which 103 media items were published about the elections, as well as that the discrimination been imposed on the candidates while presenting their “electoral program” through the exclusion of some of candidates, as well as the distinction between the candidates themselves, who have registered their participation in the time available to them, and these are some models: candidate in the first district in the northern province: 5 seconds, 7 seconds, and a candidate in the first circle in the province of Muharraq: 8 seconds, a candidate in the sixth circle in Muharraq was given only 10 seconds

  • 0% of the opinion of the opposition to the elections in these programs were presented.
  • 0% opinion of the opposition to the elections among the guests.
  • 0% of the opinion of the opposition to the elections in the public opinion surveys.
  • 0% impartiality in conducting dialogues and presenting programs.
  • 0% coverage in reviewing different moderate views on elections

12)The public voting centers are one of the electoral scandals used by the Bahraini authorities in the electoral process and raise doubts, especially with the lack of capacity to be monitored by local and international organizations in real terms. Some opposition political parties have spoken in previous electoral trials about complaints of fraud in the centers and the ability of the Bahraini authorities to benefit from the “floating votes” of new naturalized citizens in these centers. The analysis of some of these models in the capital province is shown as follows: The distance between the first voting center and the general center is (1500 meters), can be derived by car in 6 minutes, and from the third voting center to the next general center is (850 meters) which can be traveled by car in 3:15 minutes, and the fourth voting center and the next general center is (1250 meters) can be traveled by car in 5 minutes, and analysis shows some of these models in the southern province the distance between the first voting center and the general center is (1500 meters) and can be traveled by car in 6 minutes!
13)The official intimidation measures were launched through the Ministry of the Interior that any news or messages calling for boycotting the upcoming parliamentary elections and referral of those implicated to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (6 October 2018). After rumors spread, and intimidation for those who boycott the electoral process; it has deliberately a cyber crime not to carry out its responsibility and legal laxity in pursuing the source of those rumors; and some of these rumors been confirmed by the president of the current parliament, Ahmed Al-Mulla, who won 22 votes in the Sub-Committee in the 2014 elections, which raises doubts about the existence of official complicity in attributing the war of rumors against citizens, as well as the complaints we received about the exposure of some citizens to blackmail by denying them their general services, housing benefits or economic rights if they boycotted the election.
Second: Recommendations

  1. Form an independent committee with the participation of civil society institutions to manage the elections.
  2. Distribute constituencies fairly and in conformity with the international parameters, and achieve balance and equality among citizens in terms of the electoral vote, according to the principle, “one vote for each citizen,” or make Bahrain one constituency.
  3. Achieve the principle of separation of powers so that the legislative authority can play its role away from the hegemony of the executive authority.
  4. Obtain the highest levels of international supervision over the elections.
  5. Abolish the project of political isolation, enable all citizens to participate freely and effectively in the elections, cancel the decisions of dissolving political associations and give them real space to practice freedom of political action, and release political leaders.
  6. Release all prisoners of conscience, stop violations, put an end to the policy of impunity, and hold those responsible for violations accountable.
  7. Immediately implement the recommendations of the committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Independent Commission of Inquiry and the Universal Periodic Review of 2012 and 2017.
  8. Suspend provocative media coverage by the official media and implement recommendation no. 1724 of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
  9. Legislate a law that guarantees that an independent body manages the elections and allows international organizations to monitor the elections.
  10. Abolish all legislations and decisions that restrict public freedoms, violate the rights of citizenship or undermine freedom of assembly and association.
  11. Abolish legislations and laws that confiscate the right to vote and run for office.
  12. Cancel public electoral centers.
  13. Allow the formation and work of political opposition parties without hindrance.
  14. Publish voter lists and electoral blocs transparently.
  15. Work on finding political agreements through direct dialogue with all opposition factions to ensure their participation in the elections, within the framework of the national reconciliation project, to achieve comprehensive political reform, while the United Nations provide help afterwards through its supervision of the elections.