12/05/2006, 00.00
BAHRAIN
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Islamic victory in Bahrain polls

In the Lower House of the small state, 30 out of 40 MPs come from Muslim groups. Absent from the former parliament, the Shiites enjoyed a clear victory with 17 seats. There will be a woman among the MPs.

Manama (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A second round of elections held on Sunday has resulted in a strong Islamist presence in Bahrain’s Lower House of Parliament. Thirty out of 40 elected MPs are Muslims. The second factor characterizing the poll in this relatively democratic country – by the standards of the authoritarian Gulf regimes – was the success of the Shiites, who represent 60% of the population, even if the government remained in the hands of the Sunnis. The preceding elections, held in October 2002 (the first since parliament was dissolved in 1975), were boycotted by the Shiites in protest against the granting to the Upper House – chosen by the king - of the same powers as the Lower House, entirely elected. So Sunni groups had a majority. This ballot was the first in which the whole population took part. According to a government spokesman, there was a turnout of 73% for the first round and 69% for the second. The Islamic National Accord Association, which contested the polls for the first time, led by their charismatic Shiite leader Ali Salman, took 16 seats in the first round and a seventeenth in the second. On the Sunni front, the Sunni National Islamic Tribune Association, which represents the Muslim Brothers and the Salafi Assala Association, managed to get 13 seats. None of the 16 women candidates were elected but for the first time, a woman will be present in the parliament of the small state. She is Latifa Al Qouhoud, elected by virtue of being the only candidate in her electoral district. According to the Constitution of Bahrain, while the Lower House is elected, the Upper House, composed of 40 members too, is appointed by King Hamad, who gives the Sunnis majority. Although they make up a majority, the Muslims are divided: the Shiites are in opposition while the Sunnis are favoured by the government, which since 1971 has been led by Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman. The first sitting of the new parliament will be held on 14 December.

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