Bahrain held parliamentary elections on Saturday with polling stations opening at 8 a.m. in the Gulf state.
Just over 500 candidates are vying for 40 parliamentary seats and 30 municipal seats, including 94 women, more than double the 2018 figure, authorities said.
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Questioned by Justice Minister Nawaf Al-Ma’awda, he told reporters at a polling station that the voters list did not include people who had not voted before, but “had had the possibility of registering afterwards”.
A government spokesman later said in a statement that “no one is penalized for choosing not to vote” and that the election had seen “more candidates than ever before”.
Its parliament consists of the elected Council of Representatives and the Shura Council, whose 40 members are appointed by the King.
On Friday evening, the Home Office announced attempts to hack websites “to obstruct the election”.
A small oil producer and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is one of the most indebted states in the Gulf.
It was bailed out in 2018 by wealthy neighbors with a $10 billion aid package tied to reforms aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2024. Its debt has fallen slightly to 129% of GDP in 2021 .
Rising oil prices have improved the fiscal outlook for Bahrain, which says it is pursuing an economic stimulus plan aimed at increasing non-oil GDP by 5% this year and creating 20,000 jobs for Bahrainis each year for the next two years.