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Bahrain

Bahrain’s main opposition disputes voter turnout

Bahrain’s Shia opposition has engaged in a dispute with the Manama regime over the turnout rate in the legislative election recently held in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

While the official electoral commission put voter turnout at 51.5 percent, Bahrain’s al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, which has decried the elections as a “farce”, said only 30 percent of eligible voters had participated in the election.

The opposition group denounced the official turnout rate as “amusing, ridiculous, hardly credible.”

The Al Khalifa regime’s officials are “trying to fool public opinion and ignore the large election boycott by announcing exaggerated figures,” the opposition group said in a statement published early Sunday.
On Saturday, the polling stations closed at 1900 GMT after the electoral commission extended it for two hours in a likely bid to increase turnout amid reports that many Shia Muslims had joined a boycott campaign launched by the Bahraini opposition.

“Turnout for the legislative elections was 51.5 percent,” the head of the electoral commission, Sheikh Khaled Al-Khalifa, who is also justice minister, said on Saturday.

The Shia opposition bloc cited a turnout figure of “around 30 percent” and allowed a possible five percent difference either way, adding that the authorities in the kingdom made tens of thousands of state employees and others vote or face consequences.

Some 350,000 eligible Bahrainis had been called to choose 40 legislators from among 266 mostly Sunni candidates.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to give up power.

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