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Bahrainis Vote in Second Round of Parliamentary Elections


Bahrainis voted Saturday for the second time in a week to decide if parliament will be headed by Sunni Muslims or the Shi'ite-led opposition.

The final 11 seats in parliament's elected 40-seat lower house are to be determined in today's vote.

The country's main Shi'ite political party - the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society - won 16 of the 17 seats it contested in the first round of voting on November 25. The vote marked the first time the Shi'ite party ran candidates. Shi'ites boycotted the 2002 elections in Bahrain.

Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni monarch (Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa). Shi'ites make up 60 percent of the population.

Tensions between Bahrain's Shi'ites and Sunnis have increased in recent months.

The tensions were fueled by the leak of a purported government document that described an alleged plot to undermine the Shi'ite vote. The government has denied the allegation.

Bahrain's Shi'ites also are angry about a state decision to award citizenship to Sunnis from other countries as a way to change the country's demographics.

The island kingdom off the east coast of Saudi Arabia has a population of 700,000. It is headquarters for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.