(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Bahraini police set up checkpoints and patrolled key roads in a massive show of force during parliamentary elections that the opposition groups have vowed to boycott.
The heaviest security was around Pearl Square in the capital Manama, which was once the hub for protesters demanding greater rights from the ruling monarchy. The area was ringed by barb wire and lines of armoured police vehicles amid calls by anti-government factions to try to reclaim control of the site.
Elections for 18 of the 40 seats in parliament are to be held on Saturday to replace opposition deputies who resigned. The opposition is boycotting the vote, saying that the government has not done enough to address their grievances.
In total, 55 candidates are vying for 14 seats in the 40-member chamber after four won their seats for lack of candidates.
Out of total candidates, 24 candidates are competing for six seats in Manama, while 20 candidates are contesting for seven seats in the northern districts and 12 candidates would try their luck for three seats in the central districts. The only constituency in Muharraq will not go to polling as its candidate won unopposed. Meanwhile no constituency will witness by-polls in the southern district.
At the beginning, 84 candidates, including nine females registered for the elections. Applications of three candidates were rejected for not fulfilling conditions and 22 candidates, including three women withdrew from the race.
Only a dozen people were present on Saturday morning when the polling station opened in the fifth northern district, near the village of Saar outside Manama, witnesses said.
The government had called on the 187,000 registered voters to turn out en masse.
The election is taking place after hundreds of youths were dispersed on Friday afternoon by tear gas as they tried to reach a Manama junction that used to be Pearl Square, epicentre of the month-long protest quashed in mid-March.
Youth groups have called for a new march on Saturday towards the same site, to protest against the elections in Bahrain, as Al-Wefaq declared polling day a "day to mourn democracy."