Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Air Algerie investigation continues

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Dozens of youths trampled to death on Conakry beach

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

UNRWA official breaks down over Gaza deaths

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

FOCUS

Constitution prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

War and Markets, with Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank

Read more

  • Israel and Hamas 72-hour ceasefire begins

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • Dozens killed and injured in Taiwan gas blast

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Scores feared dead in India landslide

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay further €1.9 billion to Yukos shareholders

    Read more

  • Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run?

    Read more

  • Russia defiant as US, EU unveil 'phase three' sanctions

    Read more

Middle east

Bahrain heads to the polls amid mounting sectarian tensions

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-23

Polls opened for parliamentary elections in the Kingdom of Bahrain Saturday amid rising tensions between the country's dominant Sunni community and the majority Shiite population.

 

REUTERS - Bahrainis began to cast their votes for a new parliament on Saturday against a backdrop of rising sectarian tensions in the Gulf Arab country where decision making is tightly controlled by its rulers.
 
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has a Shi'ite majority population but is governed by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, which allies Saudi Arabia and the United States see as a bulwark against the regional influence of Shi'ite power Iran.
 
The island kingdom is the smallest Gulf Arab nation but a reform process launched by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa a decade ago has been closely watched in the region, especially after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq which brought Shi'ites to power there.
 
Saturday's elections are the third since the establishment of Bahrain's current parliament -- which has limited powers because bills need to pass an upper house whose members are appointed by the king.
 
The run-up to the polls was overshadowed by a broad security crackdown against some Shi'ite opposition groups in August. The government has also clamped down on bloggers and human rights activists.
 
Observers say the level of participation and any increase in street protests after the elections will be more telling than the actual results, where few changes are expected.
 
Polls opened at 0500 GMT and will close at 1700 GMT. Results are expected to be announced on Sunday morning.
 
"People in Bahrain were not expecting this crackdown, it came as a surprise and has imposed itself on the campaigns," said Jassim Hussain, an outgoing member of parliament for the main Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq.
 
Bahrain, with 1.3 million inhabitants and -- unlike its neighbours -- no oil and gas reserves, relies on foreign investment and tries to present itself as having a business-friendly environment.
 
Next week, 23 men charged with plotting to overthrow the political system will appear in court for the first hearing in their trial.
 
Wefaq has fielded only 18 candidates for the 40-seat assembly. Critics accuse Bahrain of delineating its voting districts in such a way as to ensure the Shi'ite opposition will not have a majority in parliament.
 
Some densely populated Shi'ite districts have up to 15,000 registered voters, while areas where only Sunni candidates are running have a much smaller number on the electoral roll.

 

Date created : 2010-10-23

COMMENT(S)