Counting begins following Bahrain election marred by opposition ban | News | DW | 25.11.2018
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Counting begins following Bahrain election marred by opposition ban

Officials say turnout in the parliamentary election hit 67 percent, despite concerns about "political suppression" in the Gulf state. Two opposition parties were barred from taking part, while others demanded a boycott.

Bahrain is expected Sunday to announce the results of its parliamentary election that saw opposition parties either barred or demand voters boycott the polls.

Officials said 293 candidates — including 41 women — ran for the 40-seat House of Representatives, in a vote that was denounced by many rights organizations as a "farce." The government insisted the election was "democratic" but warned voters that Iran and Qatar were trying to disrupt proceedings.

The Interior Ministry said Bahrainis were receiving text messages falsely warning that their name had been removed from the electoral register. The messages appeared to encourage people not to vote.

The country's justice minister announced a preliminary voter turnout of 67 percent, saying it was "well above" the 53 percent registered during the last election in 2014.

But the Shiite Al-Wefaq party, which along with the secular Waad party wasn't allowed to field candidates, said in a tweet that many voters had stayed away despite authorities "forcing" people to participate.

Read more: Bahrain prosecution refuses to release activist

Crackdown on dissidents

In the run-up to the election, Bahraini authorities arrested at least six people for "obstructing the electoral process." Those detained and charged included Ali Rashed al-Asheeri, a former lawmaker with Al-Wefaq party, according to the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Al-Wefaq called for a boycott of the polls after the government passed a law in June barring "leaders and members of political associations dissolved for violating the kingdom's constitution or its laws" from standing.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said Friday it was "gravely concerned" over political suppression in the tiny Gulf kingdom.

"Over the past two years, the crackdown in Bahrain has seen the political opposition detained, intimidated and silenced," Devin Kenney, the group's Bahrain researcher, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"We call on the authorities to stop this ongoing and escalating repression and to allow free expression of dissenting voices, including those who oppose monarchy," he added.

Protracted instability

Bahrain, where a Sunni minority rules over a Shiite majority, has been rocked by unrest since authorities backed by reinforcements from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates carried out a bloody crackdown on Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Bahrain accuses Iran of fomenting Shiite armed opposition amid a spate of attacks on security forces and infrastructure.

On November 4, a Bahrain appeals court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of Al-Wefaq movement, to life in prison for spying for regional rival Qatar. He had been acquitted by Bahrain's High Criminal Court in June alongside two prominent aides, Sheikh Hassan Ali Juma Sultan and Ali Mahdi Ali al-Aswad, who were tried in absentia.

Bahrain is strategically located in the Persian Gulf, and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and a British naval base.

Karte Bahrain Manama EN

mm, shs/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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