Manama: Al Asala, the expression of Salafism in Bahrain, said that it would not field candidates in next month's parliamentary by-elections.

"We will not have candidates, but we will support independent people keen on contesting in the by-elections," Hamad Al Muhannadi, the deputy head of the society, said. "Our support will be on the bases of competence and good qualifications and we will back anyone whose election will be beneficial to the people of Bahrain," he said.

The decision is a new boost for independent candidates following the announcement by another leading political-religious society, the Islamic Menbar, the offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, not to run in the by-elections to elect 18 lawmakers.

The 18 lawmakers who will replace the former MPs of Al Wefaq, the largest parliamentary bloc, resigned from the 40-seat lower chamber in February to protest against the way the authorities handled demonstrations.

MP Ali Ahmad attributed the decision by Al Menbar to the society's priority to re-assess its strategies and programmes following a crushing defeat in the October 2010 parliamentary elections.

The lawmaker denied claims that Al Menbar had opted out of the elections to avoid clashing with Al Asala over some of the seats.

The two societies had a close partnership in 2006 that allowed them to have a strong say in the lower chamber despite the presence of 17 MPs representing Al Wefaq, the opposition formation that made its debut in parliament after reversing a 2002 decision to boycott elections.

However, their lack of coordination in 2010 cost them both dearly and allowed independent candidates to emerge as strong winners.

With both societies now claiming that they would not run in the September 24 by-elections and the other political groups not divulging their plans, independent candidates may again put on an impressive show and carry more seats in the 2010-2014 legislative term.