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Bahrainis begin voting in parliamentary, municipal elections

world Updated: Oct 23, 2010 12:30 IST

AFP
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Bahraini voters began on Saturday casting their ballots in the third polls since a parliamentary system was reinstated in the Gulf kingdom in 2002.

More than 318,000 Bahrainis are eligible to vote in the parliamentary elections to choose 35 of the 40 members of the house, in the Shiite-majority kingdom that is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.

The other five seats were filled by unopposed candidates.

Voting booths opened at 8:00 am, and should remain open until 8:00 pm.

A total of 127 candidates, including eight women, are running in the elections. One of the female candidates, outgoing MP Latifa al-Qouhoud, has already secured an uncontested seat.

Voters will also cast their ballots for their respective municipal councils.

In addition to the elected parliament, the king appoints members of the 40-strong consultative council, or the upper chamber, which can block legislation from the lower house.

The Shiite mainstream opposition, the Al-Wefaq group, which boycotted the first elections following the political reforms in 2001 that turned Bahrain into a constitutional kingdom, scored a sweeping victory in 2006, grabbing 17 seats.

It is fielding 18 candidates in this parliamentary election, as its head, Sheikh Ali Salman, demanded easing the grip of the ruling family on power.