Bahrain's main Shiite opposition group, the Islamic National Accord Association, won 18 of parliament's 40 seats in a weekend poll, the electoral commission said today.
The 18 candidates of INAA, which won 17 parliamentary seats at the last election in 2006, were elected in the first round of the legislative poll held yesterday, electoral commission chairman Abdullah al Buainain said.
Nine seats remain up for grabs in the second round of voting which is to take place on October 30, he added without elaborating.
Some people complained yesterday that their names had been missing from voters' lists, but senior officials dismissed such claims as commonplace.
With today's results, the Shiite group strengthens its presence in the lower house of parliament which has the authority to examine and pass legislation proposed by the king or cabinet and also has monitoring powers.
The upper chamber, or consultative council, has the power to block legislation coming out of the lower house.
Voters were tasked with choosing from 127 candidates, eight of them women, to elect the 40-member parliament, while the king names the members of a 40-strong upper chamber.
The justice minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al Khalifa, head of the electoral commission, estimated turnout of "at least 67 per cent," compared with 72 per cent in 2006 and 53.4 per cent in 2002.
Ahead of the polls, a wave of arrests of Shiite political activists drew warnings from international human rights watchdogs of a drift back to full-blown authoritarianism.
The foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al Khalifa insisted today that the arrests were "not linked to elections."
The archipelago state was plagued in the 1990s by a wave of Shiite-led unrest which has abated since the steps launched to convert the emirate into a constitutional monarchy.