Manama: Bahrain's parliamentary by-election officials on Thursday said that 83 candidates had signed up their names during the three-day registration period for next month's polls.
"The figure is beyond our expectations and is higher than the number of candidates who ran in the same constituencies in the elections in October," Abdullah Al Buainain, the executive director of the elections, said. "The candidates are highly representative of all social segments and include religious scholars, professionals, civil society activists and women," he told reporters.
Around 180,000 Bahrainis are scheduled to elect 18 lawmakers who will replace the former representatives of Al Wefaq Islamic Society after they resigned in late February to protest against the way the authorities handled demonstrations in Manama.
However, opposition societies, including Al Wefaq, said that they would boycott the by-elections amid claims that the 40-member lower chamber of the bicameral parliament should have more powers.
Several opposition figures urged people not to run or vote in the by-elections.
However, according to the official, the highest number of candidates registered in the Northern Governorate, a traditional bastion for Al Wefaq.
"We have 30 candidates in the Capital Governorate, four in the Muharraq Governorate, 33 in the Northern Governorate and 16 in the Central Governorate," Al Buainain said.
The elections will be held on September 24 and the repeat, in case no candidate emerges as a clear winner with more than 50 per cent of the votes in a constituency, will be on October 1.
Bahrainis living abroad and those on trips overseas can cast their ballots on September 20, but must register with a Bahraini diplomatic mission or through a hot line or a dedicated website, Al Buainain said.
Bahrain held its first parliamentary elections in 2002 after a three decade constitutional hiatus.
Al Wefaq and other opposition formation boycotted the polls to press for more reforms.
They however reversed their position in 2006, citing the need to work from the inside. Al Wefaq achieved a landslide win with 17 seats, a success that it repeated in 2010 when it carried the 18 constituencies in which it fielded its candidates, all men.
The decision by Al Wefaq not to contest in the 2011 by-elections was attributed by its opponents to pressure from its top religious authorities, a charge that the society has rejected.
Officials said that four local organisations would monitor the elections.