Strong Election Vote in Bahrain Despite Patches of Unrest

Sep 24, 2011, 17:34 ET from Bahrain News Agency

MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Scattered harassment of voters slowed but did not stop Bahrain voters from casting ballots Saturday in a by-election to fill empty seats in parliament, as security forces and voter determination countered two days of efforts to disrupt.

"We would like to compliment the people of Bahrain who stood against the incredible threats that took place up to today," said HE Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs. "A will of the people to go back to their future and take part in their democracy prevailed over the pressure and their fear."

Voters were to fill 18 seats that were vacated in February by opposition members protesting the government's actions against street demonstrations. Four candidates were declared winners before votes were cast after their opponents withdrew.

The most problems came in three voting districts – the 4th, 5th and 9th – where protestors dumped oil on the streets in an effort to make access to voting stations impassable.

"There were no votes until this afternoon, until after police came and cleared and brushed the streets and put sand on them," said Abbas Abdullah AbdulHuaaein Sarraj, 61, a candidate in the 4th district. He was one of the candidates threatened in the days leading up to the vote. He said tension was high all day around his district, which is located near the Dana Mall.

More unrest came the day before the voting in the City Centre, near Dana Mall, in Manama, and Sitra, violence that resulted in at least 28 injured police officers and the threatening of at least one reporter by roving gangs.

To underscore the determination of the government to reassure citizens of the safety of the streets and the election polls, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa visited the City Centre after the marauding to inspect the scene and reassure shoppers. Shoppers accepted HRH the Premier warmly as he told them that the government is committed to ensuring citizen's security and stability. He affirmed that he stands by them and that the government has been steadily making progress and the importance of Saturday's elections in assuring a positive future for all Bahraini citizens.

"The situation in the Kingdom is stable and we are all working together to make sure it will continue to improve," HRM the Premier said. "No attempt to vandalize or scare citizens or attempts to shake the security and stability of this nation will succeed."

HRH the Premier's visit was consistent with his personal policy of being the first present on site following an event to follow up directly with issues that relate to citizens and to give directives to officials to do whatever is necessary to provide for citizens and calm their fears.

In Sitra, five policemen were injured after being attacked by protestors throwing Molotov cocktails. One officer has sustained second-degree burns. In addition, road spikes were placed on main streets in attempt to disrupt traffic was run into by a police car, causing the car to flip and the officer to become severely injured. At 4 p.m. Friday, a group of angry protesters stormed Bahrain City Centre in Manama, scaring shoppers – primarily comprised of women and children. The protesters were described by witnesses as young teenage men and women covered from head to toe in black. Shoppers reacted by shouting at protesters telling them to leave. Police arrived to protect the shoppers and reestablished calm. Four protesters were arrested.

Footage from television monitors has been released to the public, who are asked to help identify others involved in the incident for possible legal action.

During the incident a television reporter from Al Arabiya was threatened by the protesters at City Centre. Phone calls were made to the reporter telling him that he will be punished for covering the events, he told the media. The reporter described the protesters as gangs of children that sought to terrorize shoppers.

The Association of Journalists also condemned yesterday's events and attacks on journalists. The Chamber of Commerce and Dr. Essam Fakhro, Industry Chairman, released a statement also rebuked the actions, saying the rampage of the participants is unacceptable. "No economic prosperity can be achieved unless security and stability prevail," Dr. Fakhro said.

The Ministry of Interior has stated that it is part of their national duty to serve citizens while staying within the law by remaining calm and demonstrating caution when dealing with situations. The efforts of the MOI were praised by Dr. Fakhro for maintaining order and stability throughout vital economic locations across Bahrain.

Videos posted to You Tube by individuals show in detail the actions at the City Centre. They can be viewed at these links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJdaqApuA2E&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aauy9KSe6Vs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4sL2c7g_QM&feature=related  

SOURCE Bahrain News Agency