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Bahrain - Politics - 2014 Election

At the beginning of 2014 there was new hope in Bahrain that a political consensus might finally be reached to help end the countrys three-year-long civil conflict. The crown prince met directly with opposition leaders in January, the first meeting since pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011. While the gesture aroused hopes that national reconciliation talks could be revived, two months later no discussions have taken place, and deadly violence rose to a level not seen since the height of the uprising.

Tens of thousands of Bahrainis joined a peaceful demonstration on 15 February 2014 to mark the third anniversary of an abortive pro-democracy uprising led by majority Shi'ite Muslims. The rally organized by the kingdom's main opposition al-Wefaq movement was one of the biggest staged since 2011.

Around 20,000 mainly Shia protesters again marched in Bahrain on 04 April 2014 calling for democratic reforms in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. The peaceful demonstration took place west of the country's capital of Manama on Friday, just two days ahead of the annual F1 race. The march was organized by the main opposition group Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, which is leading the Shia majoritys campaign for greater rights and representation in the minority-led nation.

Despite the rise in violence, Bahraini opposition groups said the government must make big changes in its domestic-security policy if national dialogue is to succeed. Police were said to routinely target innocent civilians and use tear gas indiscriminately in Shiite neighborhoods, and opposition activists say Bahrain is holding more than 3,000 political prisoners.

Residents of Bahrain voted 22 November 2014 for the first time since a 2011 pro-democracy uprising. However, opposition groups, including al-Wefaq - the country's most popular Shi'ite group - urging supporters to boycott the polls. Al-Wefaq dismissed the electoral process as a "farce" and warned that failure by the kingdom's rulers to loosen their grip on power could trigger a surge in violence. Candidates were running for municipal and parliamentary seats. A runoff election would be held in a week for any candidate who does not win more than 50 percent of the vote.

Bahrain opened 49 polling stations on the morning of 29 November 2014. The people were electing representatives for the lower house of Parliament, as well as other local ones. The first tour of voting finished a week earlier, with repeat voting scheduled for 34 polling stations, after only 6 MPs were chosen. Candidates for the lower house are voted in, while members of the higher house are chosen by the King.

Approximately 52 percent of eligible voters participated in parliamentary elections held on November 22 and 29, although turnout was significantly lower in opposition districts, due to a decision to boycott by the main opposition political societies, and a lack of confidence among opposition communities the elections would produce a parliament that would address their concerns. The government did not permit international election monitors. Domestic monitors generally concluded that authorities administered the elections smoothly. There were, however, broader concerns regarding voting district boundaries and limitations on freedom of expression and association.

Violent oppositionists intimidated candidates, including through arson attacks on their personal property and businesses. Boycotters pressured other candidates to withdraw from the race.

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