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Bahrain Second-Round Elections Give Majority to Secular Candidates - 2002-11-01


Results are in from the second round of parliamentary elections in the Gulf state of Bahrain. While Islamist candidates did well in the first round of elections last week, this round gave secular candidates a slight majority in the first elected legislature in Bahrain in nearly 30 years.

Secular candidates have secured 21 of the 40 parliament seats up for election. Sunni and Shiite Islamic parties have taken the rest. Bahrain's parliament has a total of 80 seats, but half of them are filled by members of a so-called consultative council that is appointed by the king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

Bahrain is the only Gulf country where women are allowed to vote and to run for office, but no women were elected to the legislature. Two women candidates who advanced, out of eight who competed in the first round, failed to win seats Thursday. Bahrain's Minister of Information Nabil al Hamer told a Western news agency he was sad no women won, but that the results must be accepted.

Even though some Shiite Muslims called for a boycott of the elections, saying they wanted Bahrain to return to old constitution rules, officials said voter turnout in the first round was more then 53 percent. No figures have been released on the turnout for Thursday's second round.

The legislative elections were Bahrain's first in almost three decades. A constitution approved in 1973 called for all members of parliaments to be elected, but two years later, the former king dissolved the parliament.

Since King Hamad came to power three years ago, Bahrain has been moving toward democracy, in the region dominated by conservative politics and traditional rulers.

But opposition groups say the democratization process is far from complete. They are upset that the members of the appointed consultative council have as much power as those who were elected.

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