Manama: Polling stations in Bahrain opened at 8am on Saturday for the second and final round of the parliamentary by-elections.

Voters will cast ballots for the last nine lawmakers in the 40-seat lower chamber of the bicameral parliament after five candidates, all men, carried their constituencies in the first round last Saturday. Four candidates, including one woman, the first Shiite to enter the lower chamber, had earlier won after they ran unopposed in their constituencies.

Two candidates, who had achieved the highest scores in the first round, will run in each of the nine constituencies. Voters can cast their ballots in their own constituencies or in any of seven general polling stations.

The by-elections are held to replace the 18 MPs who represented Al Wefaq, the largest bloc in the chamber, until they resigned in late February in protest against the way the authorities handled demonstrators.

Al Wefaq and other opposition groups boycotted the by-elections, calling for greater powers for the lower chamber. Al Wefaq achieved landslides in 2006, when it took part for the first time in the parliamentary elections after reversing a boycott decision in 2002, and in 2010, securing the highest scores. However, none of the other opposition societies had won a seat in either election.

Three women are among the nine candidates coveting the remaining seats amid hopes by women's rights activists that they will be able to join Lateefa Al Gaood who won in 2006 and 2010 and Sawsan Taqawi who was declared winner last month ahead of the elections for lack of competitors.

Polling stations close at 8 pm and the results are expected either late on Saturday or early Sunday. The parliament is expected to hold its first session in October.