By Farishta Saeed
MANAMA (Reuters) - Polling stations across Bahrain opened on Saturday for parliamentary and municipal elections, although the main Shi'ite opposition group is boycotting the vote.
A total of 419 candidates are running, 266 for parliamentary seats and 153 in municipal council elections, but the elections are not expected to resolve political turmoil in the kingdom, where the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family rules over a population that is mostly Shi'ite Muslim.
Bahrain has been shaken by low-level unrest since Shi'ite protesters took to the streets in February 2011 asking for greater democracy.
Reconciliation talks between the al-Khalifa family and the opposition were revived early this year but later appeared to stall following the prosecution of opposition officials on a variety of charges.
Al Wefaq, the main opposition in Bahrain, is boycotting the elections along with three other groups.
Al Wefaq has said it will not take part in the poll because parliament would not have enough power and because voting districts favored the kingdom's Sunni Muslims.
Despite the boycott, polling stations were busy in the mostly Sunni Riffa district south of Manama, with long queues since the early morning.
In the Shi'ite village of Sanabis to the west of Manama, however, rocks and stones were scattered in the middle of the street in an attempt to block traffic and prevent voters from reaching polling stations.
Al Wefaq, which has strong links to Bahrain's Shi'ite majority, won 18 out of 40 parliamentary seats in a 2010 election, but it pulled out of parliament a year later during a crackdown against mostly Shi'ite Muslim protesters in the February 2011 demonstrations.
In late October, a court ruled in favor of suspending the activities of al Wefaq for three months in a court case brought by the government against the organization in July, alleging that it had broken the law.
Bahrain, an ally of fellow Sunni monarchy Saudi Arabia and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, accuses Shi'ite Gulf power Iran of stirring up unrest and says it has made many reforms since 2011. Iran denies those charges.
(Reporting By Farishta Saeed; Writing By Maha El Dahan; editing by Jane Baird)