MANAMA // Bahrain is to hold a run-off round of special parliamentary elections after candidates in nine constituencies failed to win an outright majority, the justice minister said yesterday.
Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa's announcement came a day after voting took place to fill 18 seats in the 40-member parliament that were vacated by the Al Wefaq group, the biggest Shiite party.
The run-off is due to be held on October 1.
Also yesterday, the head of Bahrain's main opposition party challenged the official turnout figures for the parliamentary elections.
Sheikh Ali Salman claims about 17 per cent of voters took part in Saturday's elections.
The government's preliminary turnout figure was more than 51 per cent, but it was unclear if the tally included counts from districts where candidates ran unopposed.
Mr Salman's Wefaq party and other Shiite blocs urged a boycott to protest crackdowns.
He claimed yesterday that the boycott was effective.
The groups seek greater rights from the Sunni rulers.
Al Wefaq legislators quit in objection to a crackdown on mostly Shiite demonstrators who held rallies in February and March.
At least 35 people died in protest-related violence.
Before Saturday's vote, four candidates were declared winners after their competition withdrew.
On the eve of the election, police blocked protesters trying to march to the capital, witnesses said.
More radical elements of the opposition have tried several times to march back into the city in recent weeks and Friday's attempt appeared to be the largest since the crackdown.
But police barred their way, including roads to the Sanabis area and the Bahrain Financial Harbour, which flank the central roundabout that was the centre of the protests seven months ago.
* Agence France-Presse with a report from Associated Press