Manama: Bahrain’s parliamentary elections on Saturday will mark a day of historic firsts as the unprecedented number of 266 candidates will be vying for the 40 seats for grabs in the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament.

It will also be the first time that 22 women will be running in the elections in a bid to outperform the outgoing Council of Representatives where four women had seats.

In the 2002 elections, the first to be held following the promulgation of a new constitution that allowed women to run, only eight women registered as candidates. They were 18 in 2006 and nine in 2010. In the 2011 by-elections, there were nine women candidates.

Saturday’s polls will also be the first to be held under the newly redrawn electoral constituencies that “made them 90 per cent of a comparable size,” Justice Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa said.

According to election officials, 349,713 Bahrainis, including 175,998 men and 173,175 women, are listed to elect their lawmakers for the 2014-2018 legislative term.

Opposition societies said they would boycott the elections, repeating a decision they made in 2002, but reversed in 2006 and 2010 allowing the largest society, Al Wefaq, to win 17 and 18 seats consecutively.

Hours before the polling stations were due to open for voters, officials gave strong assurances about the smooth process of the elections and highlighted the country’s full preparedness.

Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa on Thursday returned home following successful medical checkups.

“By holding the elections as scheduled, Bahrainis are clearly demonstrating they are supporting democracy, reinforcing political pluralism and consolidating active involvement in public life,” Information Minister Sameera Bin Rajab said.