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Wefaq, which has long held a plurality in Bahrain’s parliament, withdrew in March to protest the killing of demonstrators and the government’s refusal to meet its demands on democratic reform.

Mr. Salman denied that Bahrain, where thousands of Saudis flock daily to drink alcohol, would become more religiously restrictive if Wefaq gained power, saying “you cannot force the people to do anything.”

“This is not a problem for our thinking,” he said of Bahrainis’ freedom to drink. “We believe in Islam that the Muslim people must not drink. But if [someone] has not accepted this belief and he wants to drink, he will drink.”