Courts in Western-allied Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, last year dissolved the main opposition groups Al-Wefaq and National Democratic Action Society (Waad), accusing them of helping to foster violence and terrorism.
The Shura Council, Parliament’s upper house, passed the draft bill that bans leaders and members of political associations dissolved by the judicial system from standing in elections “due to their serious violations of the constitution and laws of the kingdom,” state news agency BNA reported.
The bill, which has already been approved by the House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, still needs to be signed by the king to become law.
Al-Wefaq, which has strong links to the country’s Shiite majority, and Waad, which is seen as a secular movement, have both campaigned for social and political reforms in the island state. A former member of Parliament for Al-Wefaq, Ali al-Aswad, criticized the move as an attempt to further stifle opposition.
“This latest move only confirms that Bahrain has no interest in welcoming opposition views into either Parliament or the political process as a whole,” he said.
Main opposition groups, including Al-Wefaq, boycotted the last parliamentary elections held in 2014 to protest what they described as an unfair electoral system.
Bahraini activists say members of the Shiite majority are subjected to systematic political and economic discrimination by the government, a charge the authorities deny.
Since the authorities crushed street protests in 2011, demonstrators have clashed frequently with security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks.
Bahrain has accused the opposition of undermining security and blamed the bombings on Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah deny any involvement in Bahrain’s unrest.