Middle East

Pro-government Sunnis dominate Bahrain vote

Bahraini election officials wait at a general polling station at Seef mall, in the capital Manama, on November 28, 2014, as the Gulf kingdom holds the second round of municipal and legislative elections. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

DUBAI: Pro-government Sunni candidates including Islamists have won the most seats in parliamentary elections in Bahrain boycotted by the main opposition Shiite majority, officials said on Sunday.

The vote was the first in the tiny Gulf state -- a key US ally -- since the minority Sunni authorities crushed pro-democracy protests led by Shiites in 2011.

Results from Saturday's second and final round of voting showed 27 of the parliament's 40 seats won by Sunnis, with the remaining 13 taken by Shiites including three women.

Among the new Sunni parliamentarians are two members of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group banned in neighbouring Gulf states.

The group is designated a "terrorist organisation" by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but is an ally of Bahrain's authorities.

The vote was tainted by claims of irregularities from both sides, but officials hailed it as democratic.

Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa said on Saturday the election was "a great success", adding: "The people have made their choice."

He also warned that "those who doubt the election results will be held accountable".

The main Shiite opposition Al-Wefaq group -- which withdrew its 18 lawmakers from parliament in protest in 2011 -- denounced the vote as a "farce" and called for a boycott.

It claimed the boycott was a success, saying that only 30 percent of voters had cast their ballots, despite the electoral commission putting turnout at 52.6 percent.

The opposition said tens of thousands of people were pressured to vote, while the authorities accused Shiites of preventing voters from reaching polling stations.

Since the uprising began in February 2011, at least 89 people are estimated to have been killed in clashes with security forces, and hundreds arrested and tried.

The opposition has warned that a lack of democratic reforms could lead to instability in Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and a partner in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.





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