Caption: King Hamad addresses citizens - BNA Image Credit:

Manama: Bahrainis have been urged to take part in the parliamentary elections expected to be held in the autumn period.

“We are about to have elections, and we hope everyone will actively participate in them, as voters or as candidates,” King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa said.

“Bahrain is, with the will of God, moving forward towards the future and all attempts to pull it backwards have failed,” the king said on Monday as he received citizens from the Southern Governorate.

The elections, which will vote in 40 lawmakers for a term of four years, will be the fourth since 2002 when a new constitution was promulgated as part of reforms launched by King Hamad. Elections were held in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

The new constitution allowed women to run as candidates in the parliament and municipal elections. While no woman won a seat in 2002, Lateefa A Gaood in 2006 made Bahrain and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) history when she became the first GCC woman to be elected to parliament. The outgoing Council of Representatives has five elected women.

Earlier this month, Bahraini media reported that the elections would be held in November. The announcement put an end to months of speculations across Bahrain that the term of the sitting parliament could be extended by one year to allow members who won seats in the 2011 by-elections to sit through four years in order to benefit from a retirement scheme.

The outgoing parliament includes 21 members elected in the general elections in October 2010, 18 in the by-elections in 2011 and one in a limited by-election in 2012 to replace former lawmaker Ganem Bu Ainain who was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

The 2011 by-elections were held after the MPs from Al Wefaq Society resigned in February in protest against the handling of the dramatic events that unfolded in the country that year.

Five opposition societies late last month said that they would not take part in the parliamentary elections “unless a clear political agreement is reached.”

Bahrain has been promoting a political dialogue to help heal the wounds caused by the deep divergences between segments of the society over the events of February and March 2011 and their consequences.

An initiative held in July 2011 brought together delegates from the parliament, political societies, NGOs, the government, the media and labour unions who agreed on a series of recommendations that included amending the constitution to give more power to the elected chamber of the bicameral parliament. The recommendations were endorsed by the king and implemented.

A second round of the dialogue to focus on political issues was launched in February 2013 and brought together delegates from the parliament, political societies and the government. However, it was suspended after the parties could not agree on a platform and on an agenda.

Hope for a new start was renewed after Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa sat with the different stakeholders in separate meetings and asked them for their visions.

On June 1, Sameera Rajab, the State Minister for Information and official spokesperson for the government, said that “bilateral meetings between the royal court and the opposition were continuing.”

“There are bilateral consultations between the stakeholders regarding the national dialogue, and when the opposition societies come up with something new, the royal court will certainly comment on it,” the minister said in her ‘Meet the Press’ briefing following the weekly cabinet session.