x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'A fair vote' as Bahrain goes to the polls

Organisers reported a large turnout of voters in Bahrain's parliamentary election as judges keep an eye on polling stations.

 

James Calderwood

Foreign Correspondent

MANAMA // The election was "fair enough, to be honest", voter Ahmed Zaman said, as disabled people in wheelchairs, women wearing niqabs and men in western and traditional clothes filed past him into a school to cast their ballots.

"The judges are watching the polls pretty closely," Mr Zaman said.

Organisers reported a large turnout of voters in Bahrain's parliamentary elections yesterday as independents, liberals and Islamists vied for seats in one of the Gulf's most powerful elected legislatures.

"Lots of political societies got elected last time, but they didn't do anything positive for the nation," Mr Zaman said. "I think we can expect many more independents in the next parliament."

At 40 district and 10 general polling centres across the country, Bahrainis began voting at 8am under the supervision of judges and civil society organisations. The preliminary results were expected to be announced three to four hours after the polls close.

 

Khalid al Medafa, the judge in charge of the Capital Governorate's first district, where an Islamist from Bahrain's Muslim Brotherhood and a pro-government independent are contesting one of parliament's 40 seats, said: "There are no problems until now. When we started there was a big rush, but it calmed down a bit by midday.

"There were two or three people whose names were not registered, maybe they changed their addresses," the judge added. The poll that has been watched closely by the international media after a government crackdown on dissent led some to ask if Bahrain's democratic experiment was in danger of failing.

Abdulnabi Alekry, the chairman of the Bahrain Transparency Society, which is monitoring the event, estimated yesterday that about 1,000 distraught voters realised they could not participate because their names were not on the voting lists.

Officials in the judiciary moved quickly to allay fears of irregularities. Khalid Ajaji, a judge who is a member of the supreme election council, said the rumours that some names are missing from the list "is not true". The judge said that the voters had a sufficient opportunity to see if they were registered online and the percentage of omitted names is "very negligible".

Mr Ajaji said the ministry of interior had dealt with some parties that were "regrettably committing violations", such as pressuring voters to cast ballots for their groups by setting up tables too close to the voting centres. jcalderwood@thenational.ae