25 Oct 2010

Shia voting claim denied in Bahrain

6:00 am on 25 October 2010

Bahrain rejects accusations by the Shia opposition bloc that hundreds of its voters were prevented from voting in parliamentary elections.

Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa said there had been a few irregularities, but overall the vote had been fair.

The estimated turnout was "at least 67%", he said.

The electoral commission says the Shia al-Wifaq group won 18 out of 40 seats in the lower house of parliament in the first round of elections on Saturday.

The precise make-up of the lower house will be decided in a run-off next weekend.

Shias comprise the majority in Bahrain, but the kingdom's rulers are Sunni Muslims.

The BBC reports the election is the third since Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy in 2002. But it is a limited democracy with the elected members of the Council of Representatives holding only restricted powers.