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Polls close as Bahraini elections pass smoothly

Polls closed in Bahrain on Saturday evening, as the elections passed without major incident. Results are expected on Sunday.

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AFP - Bahrainis voted on Saturday for the third time since reforms which turned the Gulf state into a constitutional monarchy, with the Shiite majority demanding an easing of the Sunni dynasty's grip on power.

Polling stations closed at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) after 12 hours of voting that appeared to go smoothly and saw voters flock to cast their ballots, especially in opposition constituencies.

Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa, head of the electoral commission, estimated turnout of "at least 67 percent," compared with 72 percent in 2006 and 53.4 percent in 2002.

As counting began, some people complained that their names had been missing on the voters' lists, but senior officials dismissed such claims as commonplace.

"There are no elections in the world without complaints," said Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa.

"There are countries where polling stations close due to violence... We've got none of that in Bahrain, and voters vote freely and smoothly," he added, calling it "a great indicator that our democracy is going in the right track."

Some 292 observers from Bahraini non-governmental organisations are monitoring the third ballot since the restoration of parliament after a 27-year suspension, with about 318,000 Bahrainis eligible to vote.

Foreign observers were barred from overseeing the process.

First results were expected during the night, with the final outcome due to be announced on Sunday.

 

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