Bahrain Sunni Islamists hit as woman makes history in polls

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MANAMA: Rival Sunni Islamist groups in Bahrain lost almost half their seats in a parliamentary election run-off, which also saw a woman making history by winning a municipal seat.

The National Islamic Forum (NIF), the local arm of the Muslim Brotherhood organization regained three out of the seven seats it held in the outgoing parliament, according to results from Saturday’s vote released overnight.

It had fielded eight candidates in the ballot, which came a week after the first round of the legislative poll.

Al-Assalah, a Salafist Sunni group, held on to four of its five seats after contesting the election with five candidates.

The two groups had forged an alliance in the last elections of 2006 which gave them 12 seats together in the outgoing parliament of the Shia-majority kingdom that is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.

Saturday’s polls saw the head of the NIF losing the seat he had held for eight years to Ali Zayed, a Salafist Sunni new to the parliament.

Bahrain’s main Shia opposition group, the Islamic National Accord Association, had already secured all 18 seats it contested in the 40-member parliament on October 23, becoming the lower house’s largest single bloc.

Two candidates from the National Democratic Action Association, an alliance of pan-Arab nationalists and leftists that failed to win seats in 2006, also lost in the second round.

Meanwhile, Fatima Salman became the first woman to win a contested seat in Bahraini elections after grabbing a place in the municipal council of Muharraq constituency, east of Manama.

Eight women figured among the 127 candidates running in the first round, with only one of them securing a seat, although she was unopposed.

Some 71,000 voters cast their ballots on Saturday in the parliamentary vote, while 125,000 voted in the municipal elections, Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa, head of the electoral commission said late Saturday.

The minister had said after the first round that the turnout represented at least 67 percent of eligible voters, compared with 72 percent in 2006 and 53.4 percent in 2002.

In addition to the parliament, the king appoints the members of the 40-strong consultative council, which has the authority to overrule parliament decisions.

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