MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrainis voted in the second round of a parliamentary election on Saturday, a poll boycotted by the tiny Gulf monarchy’s Shi‘ite-led opposition which accuses the government of gerrymandering and says parliament lacks powers.
Voters have returned to the polls in 34 of Bahrain’s 40 constituencies for the parliament, which has limited direct powers in a country where ultimate decision making resides with the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family.
Al Wefaq, the main opposition group which has widespread support among the country’s Shi‘ite majority, said on Oct. 11 it would not take part, citing parliament’s lack of powers and what it said were constituency boundaries that favored Sunnis.
Bahrain has been in political turmoil since mass protests broke out in February 2011 demanding more democracy before they were put down by the security forces. Small demonstrations have continued in Shi‘ite areas.
A second round of voting was needed in constituencies where no candidate secured more than half the votes last week. Bahrain said participation in the first round was 53 percent.
Bahrain, an ally of fellow Sunni monarchy Saudi Arabia and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, accuses Shi‘ite Gulf power Iran of stirring up unrest and says it has made many reforms since 2011. Iran denies those charges.
Reporting By Farishta Saeed; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky