Bahrain’s Government Predicts 100 percent ‘Yes’ in Democracy Referendum
The Bahraini government predicted a 100 percent "yes" vote as Bahrainis voted Wednesday in a referendum on a national charter to restore democracy to the Gulf state 26 years after parliament was scrapped, said reports.
"We are expecting a 100 percent yes," information minister, Mohammad Ibrahim Mutawa, told reporters.
"Bahrainis are unanimous in wanting to reestablish parliament and restore democratic life after the failure of the first parliamentary experiment," Mutawa said.
"We have drawn conclusions from our previous experience and will avoid the errors of the past," he said.
Some 217,000 people over the age of 21, or more than half the indigenous population, are eligible to vote "yes" or "no" to the charter which is to turn the archipelago into a constitutional monarchy.
Forty-seven polling centers opened at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) and closed at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) to allow 75,000 state employees to vote, said the Bahrain Tribune.
"The turnout was huge, and no problems have been reported," the organizers said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa inspected the information ministry polling station, said the paper.
On Thursday, another 47 centers will open for the rest of the male and female electorate to vote, said the paper.
Bahrain's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, on Tuesday ordered the release of the last batch of political prisoners, the final move in a series of liberalization measures which has won opposition support for the referendum.
Shiite leader Sheikh Abdul Amir al-Jamri, who spearheaded a protest movement to restore parliament and spent years in jail, has said the opposition will vote for the charter because "we are convinced it will reestablish the constitution, restore democracy and turn a new page."
The emir declared the amnesty last week, also allowing the return of political exiles.
Jamri said Sheikh Hamad had also guaranteed that parliament would retain full legislative powers, the charter would not replace the constitution, and workers and students suspended in anti-government unrest would be allowed to return to their jobs and faculties.
The charter to restore parliament, which was dissolved two years after it opened in 1973 for obstructing the government, was published in December as the key element of the liberalization process the emir launched after the death of his father, Sheikh Issa, in March 1999 – Albawaba.com
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