Bahrain released election results [official results, in Arabic] Sunday in its second round of parliamentary elections, revealing that pro-government Sunni parties had maintained a majority, preventing opposition groups from beginning a corruption investigation [LAT report] of the ruling family. Opposition Shi'ite parties represent the majority of Bahrain's population and claim they experience discrimination in government jobs and housing and have said that they were prevented from casting their votes in the first round of elections held last week [Guardian report]. Despite this, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated the Bahraini government [statement] on a successful and peaceful election and voiced support for democratic development in the region.
With this election, its third by universal suffrage since 2002, Bahrain has demonstrated that multi-ethnic, multi-confessional societes can address their challenges through peaceful reform and representative institutions. The United States is committed to supporting this important democratic development in the region. The Kingdom of Bahrain is a valued and strategic ally with a common interest in strengthening participatory democracy.
The trial of the 25 Shi'ite Muslim opposition activitists, charged with plotting to overthrow the government and supporting terror cells, began on Thursday in Bahrain [JURIST report]. Shi'ite frustration with the current Sunni controlled government came to a head in August when the government cracked down on Shi'ite opposition leaders, leading to street protests. The activitists pleaded not guilty and said that they were working for an unnamed foreign government [JURIST report]. Rights groups have criticized these charges, many against at least 10 promininet Shi'ite opposition figures, as signs of repression. The Bahraini government has faced repeated criticism over its human rights record, including a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] in February that claimed the government had reverted to using torture [JURIST report] to gain confessions from detainees after a decade of reform banning such practices. The US State Department and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Practices [advocacy website] have also voiced concerns [JURIST report] over the country's human rights practices.