Bahrain held parliament elections on Saturday with polling stations opening at 8:00 a.m. in the Gulf state.
Just over 500 candidates are running for 40 parliamentary and 30 municipal seats, including 94 women, more than double the 2018 figure, authorities say.
Justice Minister Nawaf Al-Ma’awda, when asked, told reporters at a polling station that the voter list did not include individuals who did not previously vote but that they “were given the chance to then register.”
A government spokesperson later said in a statement that “no one is penalized for choosing not to vote” and that the elections had seen “more candidates than ever before.”
Its parliament consists of the elected Council of Representatives and the Shura Council, whose 40 members are appointed by the King.
The Interior Ministry late on Friday announced hacking attempts on websites “to hinder the elections.”
A small oil producer that is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is one of the most indebted states in the Gulf.
It was bailed out in 2018 by wealthy neighbors with an aid package of $10 billion tied to reforms aimed at attaining fiscal balance by 2024. Its debt fell slightly to 129 percent of GDP in 2021.
Higher oil prices have improved the fiscal outlook for Bahrain, which says it is pushing ahead with an economic recovery plan to grow non-oil GDP by 5 percent this year and create 20,000 jobs for Bahrainis each year for the next two years.