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Women Win No Seats in Bahrain Municipal Elections

Results from Bahrain's first democratic election in three decades indicate women failed to win any seats. Still, some observers see the vote on Thursday as an important step toward democracy.

Officials in Bahrain praise the municipal elections held Thursday as part of the political reforms promised by the country's ruler, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Bahrain's information minister, Nabil Yaqoub al-Hamir, said the voting will be followed by parliamentary elections in October.

Mr. al-Hamir said that when King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa started the political reforms, he did so to create what he called a democratic atmosphere and interaction between the leadership and citizens in the kingdom.

Abdallah bin Khalid Al Khalifa, Bahrain's justice minister, said that no women won any of the contested municipality seats. But the fact they were allowed to be candidates at all is part of what he calls "a happy day in the history of Bahrain."

Three-hundred-six candidates - including 30 women - were running for 50 seats on five municipal councils. Bahrain last held democratic elections in 1973.

Professor Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid is head of a Cairo political research center. He said the Bahrain elections are significant because they allowed for women candidates and could influence other Gulf countries to do so. But Mr. Al-Sayyid said the possibility of real change through elections is low.

"I don't think that legislative elections, or municipal elections, will change very much the reality of power in these countries. But, I think, still, they are a step forward towards expanding political participation," Mr. Al-Sayyid said.

Bahrain is controlled by the Al-Khalifa family, from Bahrain's Sunni Muslim minority. Majority Shiite Muslims staged a violent campaign in the 1990s for political reform.

Reforms were initiated after present King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa took over from his father in 1999.