Counting is under way in Bahrain after polls have closed in Saturday’s parliamentary election from which opposition groups were barred in a crackdown on dissent in the Western-allied kingdom. 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. According to Bahraini state television, turnout for the election was 67 percent, the Reuters news agency reported. In advance of the vote, however, activists and members of the banned opposition parties called for a boycott of what they describe as “farce” elections, raising doubts about the credibility of the polls. The government says the elections are democratic.
Polls opened at 8am local time (05:00 GMT) and closed at 8pm (17:00 GMT).
Much of the law-making power in Bahrain is in the hands of the National Assembly, which is divided into a lower house and an upper house, the Shura Council.
Members of that council, who can block initiatives by the lower house, are selected by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
According to Middle East expert Bill Law, founder of Gulf Matters, the elections are an attempt by the Bahraini government to give the impression the elections are open and democratic.