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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Bahrain women fail in landmark poll
A veiled Bahraini woman casts her vote
Many Bahrainis see the polls as the start of larger reforms
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By Julia Wheeler
BBC Gulf correspondent

Women have failed to win a single seat in elections in Bahrain, despite being allowed to vote and stand as candidates for the first time.

The Emir of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa
Sheikh Hamad wants to modernise Bahrain
Women made up 10% of the 300 or so candidates standing in the local polls, but none has been selected by the electorate.

Many of the women were not expecting to win a council seat but said they had stood to set an example and to make it easier for other women in the future.

This was the first election in Bahrain for almost three decades, and is being seen as the start of significant change in the government of this Gulf island.

High turnout

After the excitement of polling, many in Bahrain and across the Gulf will be saddened to learn that none of the 30 women who took part in elections will be taking office.

Map, BBC

About two-thirds of the 50 seats on local councils have now been declared.

The remaining seats will be decided in run-off votes next Thursday after candidates failed to get an outright majority of 51% of the votes.

The government is to appoint the heads of the five new local councils, which will have responsibility for roads, public works and improving the facilities in their areas.

Turnout had been expected to be high at about 70%, but the information minister has reportedly suggested it was about 50%.

Dress rehearsal

Most people in Bahrain see this election as just making a start on the democratic changes that have been promised to them by their king, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.

He has scheduled parliamentary elections for October this year, when women will be allowed to stand and vote in national elections for the first time.

Analysts say it is in the national assembly that the real power lies.

Many believe the local polls have been simply a dress rehearsal for the full performance in October.

See also:

09 May 02 | Middle East
Bahrain votes in landmark poll
26 Mar 02 | Middle East
Bahrain blocks opposition websites
14 Feb 02 | Middle East
Bahrain steps up democratic reforms
15 Feb 02 | Middle East
Bahrainis welcome change
18 Feb 01 | Middle East
Bahrain lifts key security law
16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Landslide win for Bahrain reforms
05 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bahrain
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