Bahrain to hold elections in November, after banning opposition
Bahrain's parliamentary elections will be held on 24 November, its rulers have announced, though King Hamad has banned members of dissolved opposition parties from running.
The Sunni-ruled kingdom has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
Opposition movements have been outlawed and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned - with many stripped of their nationality.
The amended law on "The Exercise of Political Rights", announced in June prohibits "leaders and members of political associations dissolved for violating the kingdom's constitution or its laws" from standing in parliamentary elections.
In a copy of the royal decree published on the official BNA news agency on Monday, King Hamad urged eligible voters to elect members of the 40-seat lower house of parliament.
The lower house has the authority to examine and pass legislation proposed by the king or cabinet and also has monitoring powers.
However, the upper chamber, or Consultative Council, appointed by the king and which has the same number of members, has the power to block legislation by the lower house.
Opposition parties boycotted the last elections in 2014 - the first after the crackdown on protesters in 2011 - and denounced the vote as a "farce".
Since then, authorities have outlawed the main Shia opposition group, al-Wefaq, and the main secular opposition group, the National Democratic Action Society, or Waad.
Rights group Amnesty International has previously accused Bahrain of retreating from promised reforms and "dramatically" escalating a clampdown on political dissent.
"Despite repeated claims... to the contrary, Bahrain has been steadily backtracking on the promises of reform it made following its heavy-handed response to the uprising in 2011," Amnesty said.
The rights group called on Manama to reverse decisions to dissolve Waad and al-Wefaq - the largest bloc in parliament before 2011.
Bahrain, a key ally of the US and home to the navy's Fifth Fleet, accuses Shia-majority Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom. Iran denies the allegations.