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June 05, 2014

Muftah: Boycotts from Mayo to Montgomery to Manama

By Brian Dooley

Boycott is an Irish word. At least its origins are in Ireland, from 1880 when tenant farmers in County Mayo withheld rent from land agent Captain Boycott. They refused to harvest his crops or clean his house. The local postman refused to deliver his mail after Boycott tried to collect rents despite harvest failure. That peaceful protest of noncooperation has inspired economic and political boycotts since, including the 1955-56 United States civil rights landmark, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

This week’s news that Bahrain’s political opposition will boycott the upcoming November elections comes as no huge surprise. Bahrain’s lower house has 40 elected seats; the upper house is all appointed. Opposition parties won 18 of the 40 seats in the last full parliamentary elections of October 2010, but all 18 MPs resigned in protest a few months later when the government reacted violently to widespread calls for democratic reform. The opposition parties then refused to take part in the by-elections of October 2011, prompted by the earlier resignations.

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