(Photo credit: Al-Ahed News)
Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric, the spiritual leader of Al-Wefaq opposition party, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassem, has renewed his dismissal of the upcoming Bahraini elections, stating that they will only reinforce the royal family’s oppression of the Bahraini people.
The elections, to be held in November, are set to elect the 40 members of the Gulf state’s Council of Representatives.
“Those who believe in Sharia (Islamic law) should not remain silent in the face of this unfair election, which aims to determine the fate of the nation against their will and further marginalize and violate their interests,” Qassem said in a statement on 13 July.
The Bahraini people must “disown” the elections, “so that their will is not eliminated on the grounds of their consent, public consent or silenced by their exclusion,” the statement read.
Qassem also said that Bahrainis should spare no effort in securing a fair election, and called for increased popular protest against the ruling family.
This is the Shia cleric’s fourth official condemnation of the upcoming elections over the last two months.
On 30 June, Qassem called on all of Bahrain’s opposition parties to set aside their disputes and cooperate in a bid to topple the Council of Representatives.
Additionally, in a similar letter on 9 June, Qassem admonished the opposition for their lack of dedication to change and to wasting money on campaigns that would only help establish legitimacy to the pro-monarchy council.
“If the elections – as is apparent so far – are [leading] to a parliament that will represent the government and not the people, then relieve people from your so-called elections, keep electoral expenses for your own personal benefit, and announce a new term for the current assembly,” Ayatollah Qassem said on 25 May.
The opposition party, which represents the majority of the Shia population in Bahrain, was represented by 17 and 18 members in the 2006 and 2010 elections, respectively.
But after the 2011 uprising and the crackdown on the peaceful protests, representatives of Al-Wefaq resigned.
The party was eventually dissolved by the government, and its members persecuted, exiled, and imprisoned under charges of harboring terrorists and aiding foreign elements.
Its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman was imprisoned for life, while Ayatollah Qassem, who was stripped of his passport, currently lives between Iran and Lebanon.
The Bahraini monarchy has, for several years, been stripping members of the Shia community of their citizenships, using this tactic mainly against those who are politically active.