Sunnis hang on to their edge in Bahrain elections

Bahrain's opposition movement was dealt a blow Sunday when results from a second-round election held over the weekend showed that pro-government and Sunni Islamist lawmakers had retained their majority in the country's only elected legislative body.

The largely Shiite Muslim opposition had hoped to gain at least a tie in the lower house of parliament, opening the door to government investigations of alleged corruption and the extent of the Sunni ruling family's properties, according to local news reports. Despite a months-long crackdown on government critics and allegations of voter intimidation, Saturday's balloting proceeded peacefully.

The largest opposition group, the Shiite organization Wefaq, won 18 of 40 seats, and many in the opposition had pinned their hopes on the secular opposition group Waad winning the two seats needed to break the pro-government majority in the lower house. It did not.

The opposition now controls the same number of seats it did in the outgoing government.

One of the opposition candidates, Munira Fakhro, failed in her bid to become the first woman to beat a man to be elected to parliament. The only other female parliamentarian, an incumbent, ran uncontested.

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy, ruled by the Khalifa family, in which political parties are banned but political societies have been allowed to operate for about a decade. The country's legislature consists of two bodies, the Chamber of Deputies, which is made up of 40 elected representatives, and the Shura Council, whose 40 members are appointed by the king.

The opposition movement has accused the Sunni-dominated government of general discrimination against the country's Shiite majority and brutal repression of critics and opposition leaders. On Thursday, 25 activists charged with a variety of crimes against the government went on trial, many of them claiming they were tortured in custody.

Lutz is a special correspondent.

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