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Bahrain elects more women in parliament vote without opposition

Bahrain held its third election since demonstrations in 2011 driven by demands for a constitutional monarchy and other political reforms
— Dubai (AFP)

Bahrain has elected a record eight women and many first-time lawmakers to its 40-seat parliament, according to results announced Sunday of this week's polls held without opposition candidates.

The official Bahrain News Agency published the list of 34 candidates who won seats in the second round of parliamentary elections on Saturday, adding to six confirmed after a first round on November 12.

Two major opposition groups, the Shiite Al-Wefaq and the secular Waad, were prevented from presenting candidates. These parties were dissolved in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Amnesty International said ahead of the poll that the elections were taking place in an "environment of political repression".

An election official in the small Gulf kingdom pushed back against the criticism.

"Only the voices of the Bahraini voters are heard, and all other voices are neither heeded nor influential," Nawaf Abdullah Hamzah, director of the election process, was quoted as saying Saturday by the official news agency.

More than 330 candidates, including a record 73 women, ran for a seat on the council of representatives -- the lower house of parliament that advises King Hamad, who has ruled since his father died in March 1999.

Six women have served in the outgoing chamber.

Bahrain has about 350,000 registered voters out of a population of 1.4 million.

Turnout in the first round was 73 percent, authorities said, but no figures have been released for the second round.

This was the country's third election since demonstrations in 2011 driven by demands for a constitutional monarchy and other political reforms.

The second round of voting coincided with the Manama Dialogue conference, which has brought top diplomats from across the world to the capital from Friday until Sunday.

Bahrain, the host of the US Fifth Fleet, often accuses its neighbour Iran of training armed groups in order to cause unrest, a charge Tehran denies.

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