INDEPENDENT candidates were arguably the biggest winners in this year's parliament elections, along with Bahrain's main political opposition group Al Wefaq.
A total of 17 independent candidates were elected to parliament, while Al Wefaq remained undefeated to land 18 seats in the 40-seat chamber.
The independents' success came at the expense of two established Sunni Islamist groups, Al Menbar and Al Asala, whose eight-year alliance imploded in the run-up to the election.
Al Asala scraped into parliament with three seats, while Al Menbar managed just two - a huge loss for the two blocs that commanded 14 seats between them in 2006.
In fact, Al Asala lost five of the eight seats it ran for and Al Menbar, which was still without an election win going into the second round, lost six of the eight seats it was targeting.
Al Wefaq was already strategising yesterday, planning how to divide parliament's committee seats between itself and the independents.
"I think they (Al Asala and Al Menbar) will possibly add one or two of the independents to their blocs, but even their (independents') numbers are staggering," said Al Wefaq MP Abduljalil Khalil, who was elected unopposed in September.
"We dominated seats in 2006 with 17 MPs and this is why we chaired three of parliament's five committees and had two vice-chairmen for the other two, with us rejecting an offer to have a member of the Al Wefaq bloc as first vice-chairman.
"This was a wrong option and this year we will take that post in addition to other senior posts, which we are now negotiating to be divided with newly-elected MPs - mainly independents."
However, he said Al Wefaq was confident that its domination of parliament would not be threatened by a coalition of independents.
"We have a cocktail of independents in parliament, so coming up with a united front for them is highly unlikely although possible, considering that they have to match our numbers as opposition," he said.
"Whether they are independents or a part of any bloc, we have no problems with them.
"Our wish is to work together for the benefit of the nation, regardless of the way we want things to be done."
Meanwhile, newly-elected independent MP Adnan Al Malky suggested he and the other non-partisan parliamentarians could switch alliances, depending on specific legislation being voted on at any given time.
"I have no problem standing with Al Wefaq, Al Asala, Al Menbar and even with my fellow independents when they are right, considering that right is the only bloc I believe in and follow," said Mr Al Malky, a former municipal councillor and an ex-member of Al Asala.
However, he added that parliament's top posts should go to those who are most qualified to hold them.
"Posts should be divided according to qualification and capability, not as a pie between groups," he said.
Just over half of Bahrain's new parliament consists of MPs who have previously served in the chamber since 2002.
Five of the 40 elected MPs are actually entering their third consecutive terms, having held onto their seats since parliament was formed.
They are independents Shaikh Jassim Al Saeedi and Abdulla Al Dossary, Al Asala president Ghanim Al Buainain and member Shaikh Adel Al Ma'awada, and Al Menbar's Dr Ali Ahmed.
Fifteen are about to enter their second consecutive terms, with Khalil Al Marzooq, Abduljalil Khalil, Mohammed Al Mizal, Sayed Jameel Kadhim, Abdulhussain Al Metgawie, Dr Jassim Hussain, Jawad Fairooz, Sayed Abdulla Al A'ali and Dr Abdali Hassan all retaining their seats on behalf of Al Wefaq.
Independent MPs elected for a second consecutive term are Khamis Al Rumaihi, Latifa Al Gaoud, Adel Al Assoumi, Abdulrahman Bumajeed and Hassan Al Dossary.
Meanwhile, Othman Al Rayes has made a return to parliament following a four-year break, having served as an MP from 2002 to 2006.
Dr Ahmed, a senior figure within Al Menbar, yesterday refused to comment on the outcome of the election, while Al Asala's three MPs were unavailable.