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Bahrainis Vote in Historic Parliamentary Elections


Bahrainis are voting for a new parliament that is expected to include the first woman legislator in the country. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Washington, the vote follows a tense campaign.

More than 200 candidates are competing for seats in the National Assembly's 40-member lower house.

The country is poised for its first-ever female member of parliament, as Latifa al-Qooud was running unopposed in her constituency. Nearly 20 women were competing in the election.

The country's 300,000 voters were also electing municipal officials.

Campaigning has been tense, with more than one-thousand Bahrainis protesting Friday in the capital of Manama against alleged election fraud.

Protesters demanded an investigation into claims by former government adviser Salah al-Bandar that the government was plotting to maintain Sunni Arab dominance of the kingdom.

Sectarian tension is not new in Bahrain's elections. The country's Shi'ite Muslim majority and leftish opposition groups boycotted the last election in 2002. They claim the current government system preserves Sunni dominance.

Election officials have denied allegations of irregularities.

Bahrain's Sunni monarchy appoints the country's 40-member upper house of parliament. That chamber has the power to overrule the lower house.

However, Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition is hoping to make gains in this year's election.

Second-round voting is scheduled for December 2.