Image Credit: Gulf News

Manama: Al Wefaq, Bahrain's largest political and religious society, may put forward 24 candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, its Secretary General has said.

"The number of our candidates in the different constituencies will be between 18 and 24," Ali Salman said. "We are still in the process of finalising the list, although we have covered around 90 per cent of our work on it," he said at a news conference in Manama.

Al Wefaq currently has 17 members in the 40-seat lower chamber of the bicameral parliament, making it the largest parliamentary bloc, ahead of the two leading Sunni societies, Al Asala, the Salafi flagship in Bahrain with eight seats, and the Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which has seven MPs.

Al Wefaq, in the 2006 elections fielded 18 candidates and lost only one constituency in an overwhelming victory that few, including Al Wefaq leaders, thought possible. In pre-election statements, it said it expected to carry 13 seats.

"The names on the list have all been approved by the supporters of the society after we held discussions with them to debate the choices," Ali Salman said. "It was a unique way to communicate and reach agreements with the people as part of our direct consultations and interactions."

The initial list of possible candidates had 600 names, he added.

"It included all past lawmakers, municipal council members and well-known figures. The society's electoral centre went through the names and brought down the numbers before it gave the list to the Secretariat General," he said.

The Secretary General said that Al Wefaq's list of candidates for the municipal councils did not include any name from other societies.

His statement puts an end to speculations that Al Wefaq was planning to partner with Amal, a minor religious society, to help one of its candidates win in the municipal elections.

Amal, the group of Shirazi Shiites, boycotted the elections in 2002 and 2006, ostensibly to ask for more constitutional reforms.

In Bahrain, speculation was rife that it would take part in the 2010 elections if Al Wefaq helped it secure at least one seat in the municipal polls, a claim that Amal rejected as "untrue and lacking credibility".

Al Wefaq has often come under intense fire from other societies for being the only representative of the opposition in the bicameral parliament and for not endorsing some of their candidates. However, the society has repeatedly rejected the charges.

Only three political societies had seats in the 2006-2010 elections. Bahrain has 18 officially registered political formations. No date has been set for the elections, but they’re expected to be held in mid-October.