One seat in the 40-strong chamber has already gone to Latifa al-Qouhoud, a woman who stood unopposed in her constituency, making her the first female member of parliament in the kingdom's history.

      

Hundreds of men and women had queued waiting for the polling stations to open at 8am (0500 GMT).

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The Islamic National Accord Association (INAA), which is the major Shia formation in the kingdom, is fielding 17 candidates, while the left-leaning National Democratic Action Association has presented six candidates.

  

Both boycotted the 2002 polls protesting at the split of legislative powers between the parliament and an equally numbered upper chamber appointed by the monarch.

  

Municipal elections are taking place simultaneously, while second rounds in both polls will take place on December 2.