World

Bahrain holds its first major election since Arab Spring-protests erupted here 4 years ago

  • Hundreds of Bahrainis head to the streets for an unauthorized flash march to show their support for an opposition-called boycott of Saturday's parliamentary and municipal elections after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Opposition groups have not been granted permission to hold mass marches ahead of the polls, the first regular elections since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Persian Gulf island kingdom that was swiftly put down. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

    Hundreds of Bahrainis head to the streets for an unauthorized flash march to show their support for an opposition-called boycott of Saturday's parliamentary and municipal elections after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Opposition groups have not been granted permission to hold mass marches ahead of the polls, the first regular elections since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Persian Gulf island kingdom that was swiftly put down. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)  (The Associated Press)

  • Riot police line up to block protesters from making it to a main highway after hundreds of Bahrainis headed to the streets for an unauthorized flash march in support of an opposition-called boycott of Saturday's parliamentary and municipal elections after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Opposition groups have not been granted permission to hold mass marches ahead of the polls, the first regular elections since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Persian Gulf island kingdom that was swiftly put down. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

    Riot police line up to block protesters from making it to a main highway after hundreds of Bahrainis headed to the streets for an unauthorized flash march in support of an opposition-called boycott of Saturday's parliamentary and municipal elections after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Opposition groups have not been granted permission to hold mass marches ahead of the polls, the first regular elections since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Persian Gulf island kingdom that was swiftly put down. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)  (The Associated Press)

  • Riot police line up to block protesters from making it to a main highway after hundreds of Bahrainis headed to the streets for an unauthorized flash march in support of an opposition-called boycott of Saturday's parliamentary and municipal elections after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Opposition groups have not been granted permission to hold mass marches ahead of the polls, the first regular elections since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Persian Gulf island kingdom that was swiftly put down. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

    Riot police line up to block protesters from making it to a main highway after hundreds of Bahrainis headed to the streets for an unauthorized flash march in support of an opposition-called boycott of Saturday's parliamentary and municipal elections after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. Opposition groups have not been granted permission to hold mass marches ahead of the polls, the first regular elections since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Persian Gulf island kingdom that was swiftly put down. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)  (The Associated Press)

Voting has begun in Bahrain's first full parliamentary election since Arab Spring-protests erupted here four years ago.

The country's Shiite opposition has called for voters to boycott the election Saturday.

State media in Bahrain reports that a total of 419 candidates are running for municipal and parliamentary seats. Any candidates that do not secure more than 50 percent of the vote will head to a runoff a week later.

The elections, however, are unlikely to diffuse tensions between Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and Shiite activists who continue to protest for greater rights and a greater say in government.

The elections are being watched closely by Bahrain's Gulf neighbors and Washington. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and is part of the U.S.-led coalition striking the Islamic State group.