SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)- Bahraini voters are taking part in the country’s first parliamentary and municipal elections since a 2011 popular uprising despite a boycott by the Shia opposition that led the pro-democracy movement.
Some 350,000 eligible Bahrainis went to the polls on Saturday to choose 40 legislators from among 266 mostly Sunni candidates. A second round of voting will be held next Saturday.
However, Shia opposition groups boycotted the elections, saying the vote is an attempt to establish “absolute rule”.
The polls are being contested without a compromise between authorities in the Manama regime and the opposition, including the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society.
Anti-government protesters blocked roads in several towns by setting fire to tires while hundreds of security forces have been deployed across the kingdom to disperse the protesters.
Al-Wefaq and four other opposition groups have dismissed the electoral process as a “farce” and called for an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy.
Sheikh Ali Salman, the secretary general of Bahrain’s al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, on Friday called for an end to the power “monopoly” in the country, warning that the ruling Al Khalifa regime’s refusal to relinquish power could cause an “explosion” of violence.
Observers and political analysts say the boycott means the polls with whatever outcome will not end the anti-regime protests in the country.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to give up power.
Bahrain has been severely criticized by human rights groups for its harsh crackdown on anti-government protesters, which has claimed the lives of scores of people so far.