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Bahrain bans members of dissolved opposition parties from elections

Bahrain’s king on Monday banned members of dissolved opposition parties from running for election, months ahead of parliamentary polls, the official BNA news agency said.

The amended law on “The Exercise of Political Rights” ratified by King Hamad prohibits “leaders and members of political associations dissolved for violating the kingdom’s constitution or its laws” from standing in parliamentary elections.

It also bans anyone “convicted of a felony, even if they have been granted amnesty”.

Individuals who “intentionally harm or disrupt the constitutional and parliamentary process” are also prohibited from running for office, according to BNA.

The revision comes as Bahrain prepares to renew its 40-seat parliament this autumn.

The Sunni-led kingdom has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when authorities crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Opposition movements have been outlawed and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned – with many stripped of their nationality.

Opposition parties boycotted the last elections in 2014.

Since then, authorities have outlawed the main Shia opposition group, al-Wefaq, and the main secular opposition group, the National Democratic Action Society (Waad).

Bahrain, a key ally of the United States and home to the US Fifth Fleet, accuses Shia Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom.

In September, Bahrain retreated from promised reforms and “dramatically” escalated a clampdown on political dissent over the past year, rights watchdog Amnesty International said.

“Despite repeated claims… to the contrary, Bahrain has been steadily backtracking on the promises of reform it made following its heavy-handed response to the uprising in 2011,” Amnesty said.

“Since June 2016, the Bahraini authorities have dramatically stepped up their crackdown on dissent.”

The rights group called on Manama to “immediately and unconditionally” release prisoners of conscience and halt reprisals against “peaceful critics and their relatives”.

It also urged the government to reverse decisions to dissolve Bahrain’s two main opposition movements, Waad and al-Wefaq – the largest bloc in parliament before 2011.

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