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Polls close in Bahrain vote hit by boycott calls

AFP , Saturday 24 Nov 2018
Views: 2648
Views: 2648

Polls closed in Bahrain Saturday after a parliamentary election marred by boycott calls from dissolved opposition groups banned from taking part.

The country's two main opposition groups, the Shiite Al-Wefaq and secular Waad, were barred from fielding candidates.

Counting got underway after a day of voting in the tiny Gulf kingdom, with preliminary results expected Sunday.

King Hamad in September urged voters to take part in the vote, in which officials say 293 people -- including 41 women -- are running for parliament.

A municipal poll coincides with the parliamentary vote.

Bahrain has been hit by ongoing unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Bahrain has repeatedly accused Shiite-dominated Iran of stoking unrest.

Opposition parties shunned the last elections in 2014, the first since the 2011 crackdown, denouncing the vote as a "farce".

More than 350,000 Bahrainis were eligible to vote, according to justice minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ali al-Khalifa, adding that there were 54 polling stations across the country.

On Saturday, the interior ministry warned voters to "dismiss rumours that affect the electoral process", accusing Iran of interference in the process.

It urged citizens to depend on "reliable sources" after people reportedly received text messages warning them not to head to polling stations as they had been stricken from the electoral roll.

The ministry said Tehran was behind around 40,000 texts sent to Bahraini citizens that "aimed to negatively affect" the elections, adding that other messages came from people inside the kingdom.

At least six people were detained and charged this month for "obstructing the electoral process", according to Bahrain's public prosecutor.

One of the six was Ali Rashed al-Asheeri, a former member of parliament with Al-Wefaq, according to the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Asheeri had tweeted that he and his family would boycott the polls.

Al-Wefaq called for a boycott of this year's parliamentary election after a law issued in June barred "leaders and members of political associations dissolved for violating the kingdom's constitution or its laws" from fielding candidates.

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