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Middle East
Shias gain in Bahrain polls
Shias gain political voice in Bahrain's parliament while Sunnis remain the majority.
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2006 05:22 GMT

Shia opposition groups did well in the
first round of elections


Shias have gained a political voice in Bahrain's parliament, while Sunni groups continue to dominate the 40-seat lower house.
 
A second round of voting came to an end on Saturday with the Shia-led opposition securing two further seats to hold a total of 18 seats, while pro-government Sunni groups won nine seats to reach a total of 22.
Sunni groups once again secured a majority, while results showed that liberals and women failed to secure any of the contested seats.
 
Despite having a majotiy Shia population, Bahrain is Sunni-ruled. The main political formation of Bahrain's Shia majority boycotted elections held in 2002.

Shia gain

The left-leaning opposition National Democratic Action Association (NDAA), supported by the Shia-led Islamic National Accord Association (INAA) which gained 16 seats in the first round, contested in four of the remaining seats up for grabs in the 40-seat parliament.

The success of the Shia opposition in a country which is home to the US Fifth Fleet comes against the background of the Shia rise to dominance in Iraq and Shia Iran's defiance of Western demands over its nuclear ambitions

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Both opposition groups boycotted the last election in 2002, the first such vote in Bahrain since 1973.
 

Results from the November 25 first round gave the INAA control of more than 40 per cent of the elected chamber - a share set to rise in the second round.

  

The success of the Shia opposition in a country which is home to the US Fifth Fleet comes against the background of the Shia rise to dominance in Iraq and Shia Iran's defiance of Western demands over its nuclear ambitions.

 

A second round of municipal elections also took place on Saturday to pick 16 out of 40 local council members.

  

Sheikh Ali Salman, the INAA's charismatic leader who led the  group's ticket, told AFP that all INAA candidates were expected to win in the second round.

  

"If this doesn't happen, it will be because of fraud," he said after the first round.

 

Sharing power

 

None of the 16 women among the 206 candidates made it to the  second round, but women are guaranteed a seat in the house which has  gone to Latifa al-Qouhoud, who stood unopposed in her constituency, making her the first woman MP in Bahrain's history.

  

The elected chamber will have to coexist with an upper chamber  appointed by King Hamad, and share its legislative powers, an  arrangement which prompted the opposition to boycott the 2002 polls,  which were the first since the elected parliament was scrapped in 1975.

  

Opposition groups continue to object to the legislative powers granted to the appointed consultative council, which also has 40  members.

Source:
Agencies
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