Polls close in Bahrain election marked by unfair ballot

Polls close in Bahrain election marked by unfair ballot
The main and largely Shia opposition movements were banned in Sunni-ruled Bahrain ahead of the 24 November polls.
2 min read
25 November, 2018
Protests in Manama in Bahrain [Getty]

The polls closed in Bahrain's parliamentary elections on Saturday at 8:00pm local time in the absence of the country's Shiite-dominated opposition that was banned ahead of the vote.

Bahrain's two main opposition groups - the Shiite Al-Wefaq and secular Waad - were prohibited from submitting parliamentary candidates.

Officials from the interior ministry and the electoral commission closed the doors of the polling stations and locked the ballot boxes before the counts began.

Up for grabs are 40 seats in Bahrain's lower house of parliament and 30 municipal council seats.

It is the second election in Bahrain since mass protests led by the country's Shiite majority erupted in early 2011.

The government, which is ruled by a Sunni monarchy backed by Riyadh, crushed the Arab Spring-inspired protests, but disenfranchised Shiite youth continue to hold scattered street protests in the tiny Persian Gulf nation.

Rights groups say Saturday's vote is taking place in a repressive environment that is not conducive to free elections. 

Sheikh Hussein Al-Dihi, the Deputy Secretary General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Association, said in a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, that the turnout was less than 28 or 30 percent.

Al-Dihi said this showed a "wide boycott" of the elections by the country's Sunni and Shia communities and challenged the government to declare the results "with transparency".

Opposition movements have been outlawed and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned since 2011 - with many stripped of their nationality. 

Bahrain remains a vital link for Western militaries. It is the home of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, which patrols the oil-rich region, as well as a permanent British base.

The Trump administration lifted restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain that former president Barack Obama imposed on human rights grounds.

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