Back in Bahrain: constituency work 10 years later
GPG last worked in Bahrain in 2007-8, but this year we are back to support the parliament following the 2018 elections. A lot has changed over the last decade with the recent election bringing a female speaker, Fawzia Zainal, and more young people participating in politics. The elections welcomed 37 out of 40 new MPs into the Council of Representatives, where it also saw the highest youth participation in the country’s history with around 50,000 taking part. Despite the many changes, the ongoing desire to improve the way that MPs do their constituency work is still evident.
GPG also met with one of the leading youth organisations, the Youth Pioneer Society (YPS), who have been working on youth engagement in
various forms since 2011. Part of our project is engaging with young people and we are planning an inward visit from YPS members to the UK, where they will be introduced to the UK Youth Parliament, its members and UK MPs. Overall, this first visit was a way to understand local politicians’ needs, identify areas where they might require assistance and how to support them better in their context.
As a project assistant, this visit was interesting as I experienced first-hand the interactions of key policy makers in Bahraini political society and got an insight into the challenges both at a local and a national level. Whilst sitting next to one of the new MPs for lunch, I was surprised by the amount of notifications from their social media accounts, apparently Instagram and Twitter were the main methods of communication between them and their constituents. I naively asked whether they could delegate social media management to their staff to which they responded that it would cause an online uproar. Social media has drastically changed political engagement in many countries, but Bahraini MPs use it to both inform their followers of key changes and to respond to specific issues. This is just one of the ways that constituency work has changed over the last decade, but the underlying issues of overwhelming demand and difficulty accessing services remain key issues. GPG is looking forward to working alongside the new intake of Bahraini MPs and politicians to help them tackle these challenges.