Bahrainis boycott by-elections prompted by walkout

The government had called on the 187,000 registered voters to turn out en masse.

Dubai: Bahraini by-elections boycotted by
the Shiite opposition after it walked out of parliament over
violence against pro-democracy activists registered a poor
turnout on Saturday, witnesses said.

Only a dozen people were present on Saturday morning when
the polling station opened in the fifth northern district,
near the Shiite village of Saar outside Manama, witnesses

"I came because this is my country. I`m unemployed but
it`s not a reason not to vote," said Ali Ahmad al-Jamri, 34, a
Shiite electrician who has been without work for three years.

In Manama`s second constituency, ex-MP Matar Matar said
that, "as expected, the turnout is poor ... I saw only some
Bahrainis of Asian origins taking part in the polls."

The elections are being held to replace 18 MPs of the
main Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq, who resigned in
February shortly after protests triggered a deadly response
from the authorities in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.

In total, 55 candidates are vying for 14 seats in the
40-member chamber after four won their seats for lack of

The government had called on the 187,000 registered
voters to turn out en masse.

Local daily Al-Ayyam claimed Wednesday that the
government was considering penalising eligible voters who
boycott the polls, including firing them from their jobs.

But Minister of Justice Sheikh Khaled bin Ali
Al-Khalifa said today that there was a "misunderstanding" and
that only those "hindering the voting" process will be

The government said it has established several voting
centres outside the constituencies for voters "fearing
intimidation in their village polling station."

Matar dismissed the claim saying that those polling
centres have always been a source of suspicion over the
integrity of the polls.

"I went to a polling centre. The situation was calm
and there were no demonstrations around ... There is no reason
for those general centres," he said.

"There has always been a `floating` section of voters
who are dual citizens and not clear where they are
registered," he said, referring to naturalised foreigners that
the Shiite majority complains that are used to tip the
demographic balance.