Voters turned out in low numbers for a second round of by-elections in Bahrain on Saturday boycotted by the Gulf state’s Shiite opposition, witnesses said.
The elections were held to replace 18 MPs of the main Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq, who resigned in February shortly after Shiite-led protests sparked a deadly response from authorities in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
Four deputies were elected on September 24 in the absence of any competitors, and five seats were allocated. In nine districts, “no candidate received 50 percent of the vote”, necessitating the second round.
Witnesses said less than a dozen voters in 20 minutes turned up on Saturday at the largest polling station in Sehla, while a sole voter cast his ballot over the same period in the Shiite village of Sanabes.
Polling was brisker in special stations set up outside Shiite districts to allow voters to take part without being identified.
“Obviously if Al-Wefaq were here it would have been better but I understand their decision to boycott,” said one voter, Khaled Ibrahim, 48.
An independent candidate in Sehla, Ali al-Haddad, said he would not have run if Al-Wefaq had taken part, calling for the release of political prisoners and the rehiring of sacked employees for taking part in anti-regime protests.
The first round was held in an atmosphere of tension. The opposition reported a low voter turnout but the government said 51 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots.
The interior ministry said 22 people were arrested last month for attempting to obstruct the vote by closing roads, damaging cars in a parking lot near a polling station or by pouring oil in front of another.