Opposition absent as Bahrain votes in parliamentary runoff | News | DW | 01.12.2018
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Opposition absent as Bahrain votes in parliamentary runoff

Bahrainis went to the polls to elect candidates for 31 parliamentary seats not secured during last week's first round. A record 10 women ran, but several opposition parties and politicians were ineligible.

Women and men vote in Bahrain election (AFP/Getty Images)

Women and men vote in the first round of Bahrain's election

Polls closed on Saturday in Bahrain for a second time in a week after the first round of voting left dozens of seats unfilled.

Several opposition candidates and parties that were banned from taking part in the runoff  again called for a boycott.

Many political groups and activists complained that democratic reforms, introduced in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, are meaningless and that parliament's powers are minimal.

A municipal runoff was held alongside Saturday's parliamentary vote.

Only nine out the 40 parliamentary seats and seven of the 30 municipal seats up for grabs were decided on November 24. The nine legislative winners included two sitting lawmakers and two women. Another seven incumbents remained in the running to retain their seats.

Read more: Bahrain strikes oil in biggest find since 1932

Parties banned, protests crushed

The elections have been widely criticized, in part after Bahrain's parliament passed a contentious law in June barring political groups "dissolved for violating the kingdom's constitution or its laws" from fielding candidates. They include the Shiite Al-Wefaq party and the secular Waad party.

The election is the second since pro-reform protests erupted in the country in 2011, demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. 

Security forces crushed the protests and authorities imprisoned hundreds of dissidents — including top Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, who headed Al-Wefaq — and stripped many of their nationality.

Bahrain's leaders, meanwhile, accuse Iran of attempting to interfere in the country's election process.

 Sheikh Ali Salman (Reuters/H. I. Mohammed)

Bahrain's prominent Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman was banned from participating in the elections

Read more: Could Iran really close the Strait of Hormuz?

Ten women were among those competing in Saturday's runoff, the Gulf Daily News reported — the highest number of female candidates since the current legislative system commenced in 2002.

Last Saturday's first round saw a turnout of 67 percent, according to election officials; the opposition claimed it was more like 30 percent.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. local time (0500 UTC) and remained open until 8 p.m., with official results expected to be announced on Sunday.

Some 365,467 were eligible to vote, while 285,911 can participate in the municipal polls.

mm/jm (AFP, dpa)

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