181201 voter
A voter casts her ballot in the parliamentary and municipal elections at the University of Bahrain polling center. Image Credit: AFP

Manama: Bahrain’s runoff parliamentary and municipal elections started with a huge turnout on Saturday the justice minister and head of the high committee for the elections has said.

“Great turnout in the first hour of the second round of elections in all polling stations,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa posted on his Twitter account one hour after the polling stations opened at 8am.

“Increasing the number of tracks for voters in many polling stations is helping to avoid long queues. All the polling stations were provided with the same number of ballots as in the first round in order to avoid delays.”

The minister said that the preparations for the second round of the quadrennial elections started early and involved all stakeholders, including judges, polling workers and public order officers to ensure a smooth and fast process.

Polling stations opened at 8am and voters have 12 hours to cast their ballots.

Bahraini men and women went to the polls on November 24 to elect 40 lawmakers and 30 municipal councillors for the 2018-2022 term.

However, only nine lawmakers and seven councillors scored higher than 50 per cent, the minimum required to be declared winners.

The top two candidates in the undecided constituencies moved to the second and final round.

Long queues formed at the general polling station in the Seef Mall where voters from any constituency could cast their ballots. Inside, polling workers are assisting voters, checking their documents and directing them to the areas where they are given the sheets with the names and pictures of the candidates in their constituencies.

No voter was allowed to use his or mobile to take selfies or pictures, but photographers on the sidelines were allowed to carry on with their work.

The same scene was repeated in the Education Ministry Hall where another general polling station was set up.

The regular polling stations were more crowded and the people who came from the same area were using the occasion to socialise.

Under the election regulations, each of the 40 constituencies has its own polling station, usually located in an elementary school.

However, 15 general polling stations have been set up across Bahrain to allow voters to elect the candidate from their constituency.

All stations and the electoral process were monitored by observers from four NGOs and the Bahrain Institution for Human Rights.

The results were due to be announced by the justice minister late on Saturday or early Sunday.

The 2018-2022 parliament will have a new make-up after only two of the 23 former lawmakers running for seats were re-elected in the first round and 12 were ousted.

The others hope that their electorate will not be harsh with them and give them a new chance.

Political societies last week produced a dismal performance that deepened the convictions that Bahrainis are now interested in independent candidates who have greater freedom to respond to their needs and do not get entangled in web weaved by alliances and programmes that serve societies more than individuals.

Women whose election has now become a norm and not an exception in the Bahraini society are hoping to improve on the score of three achieved in the 2014-2018 elections.

Two have already won and a third is certain to follow, as the two candidates in the same constituency are women.