Bad Moon on the Rise

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Bahrain used to be a nice quiet place, guess that will end soon. Ronin

Islamist candidates dominated Bahrain’s parliamentary elections, reinforcing sectarian divisions in the country.
BY JIM KRANE
Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain – Islamist candidates stampeded to victory in Bahrain’s parliamentary election, splitting the vote between hard-line Shiite and Sunni Muslims and beating back a challenge by women and liberals in this U.S.-allied island kingdom. A second round of voting next week will decide whether Bahrain’s 40-member parliament will be dominated by the governing Sunni minority or an opposition alliance of Shiites and liberals. Results announced Sunday show that Bahrain’s third-ever election has reinforced sectarian divisions and deepening conservatism in a country considered among the most liberal of Gulf Arab states Women and liberal candidates fared poorly. Of 18 women running, only one, Latifa al Gaoud, landed a seat, and she ran unopposed. No secular liberal candidates won seats outright. Four were headed for tough second-round battles against Islamic hard-liners. The religious sweep in Bahrain mirrors results of elections in Iraq, Egypt and Palestinian territories, where Muslim hard-liners have made deep inroads against the secular establishment.
”It looks like our parliament will be dominated by people who see themselves only as Sunnis or Shiites,” said Fowad Shihab, a political science professor at Bahrain University. “These are the same Islamists that are gaining control across the Arab world.”

The Shiite al Wefaq movement, which boycotted the 2002 vote, emerged with 16 seats and is expected to win two more, by far the best showing of any party. Al Wefaq announced it would throw its support behind liberal reform candidates, most of whom faced runoff opponents from the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist movement.

”The people trusted us and we did well,” said al Wefaq leader Sheik Ali Salman, a Shiite cleric who wore a rolled white turban and black cloak.

The election captivated the nation and triggered a huge but orderly turnout, which the government put at 72 percent of the 300,000 eligible voters in Bahrain.

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