Middle East
Bahrain wraps up parliament vote
Shia groups are set for more gains in Bahrain's second round of parliamentary vote.
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2006 19:27 GMT

Shia opposition groups did well in the first round of elections

Bahrainis have voted on Saturday in the second round of parliamentary elections to choose the final 11 MPs in a poll that has seen massive gains for the Shia opposition in the small Gulf kingdom.
It was the first time in decades that parties representing the Shia majority had participated in elections in the Sunni-ruled Gulf archipelago.
The leftist opposition National Democratic Action Association [NDAA], supported by the Shia-led Islamic National Accord Association [INAA] which gained 16 seats in the first round, is fighting four of the remaining seats up for grabs in the 40-seat parliament.

Impressive showing

Both 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.

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