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World > Middle East > Bahrain > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Bahrain - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded the throne in March 1999, after the death of his father Shaikh Isa bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain?s ruler since 1961. He championed a program of democratic reform shortly after his succession. In November 2000, Shaikh Hamad established a committee to create a blueprint to transform Bahrain from a hereditary emirate to a constitutional monarchy within 2 years. The resulting 'National Action Charter' was presented to the Bahraini public in a referendum in February 2001. In the first comprehensive public vote in Bahrain since the 1970s, 94.8% of voters overwhelmingly endorsed the charter. That same month, Shaikh Hamad pardoned all political prisoners and detainees, including those who had been imprisoned, exiled or detained on security charges. He also abolished the State Security Law and the State Security Court, which had permitted the government to detain individuals without trial for up to 3 years.

On February 14, 2002, one year after the referendum endorsing his National Action Charter, Shaikh Hamad pronounced Bahrain a constitutional monarchy and changed his status from Amir to King. He simultaneously announced that the first municipal elections since 1957 would be held in May 2002, and that a bicameral parliament, with a representative lower house, would be reconstituted with parliamentary elections in October 2002. As part of these constitutional reforms, the government also created an independent financial watchdog empowered to investigate cases of embezzlement and violations of state expenditure in July 2002.

Turnout for the May 2002 municipal elections was 51%, with female voters making up 52% percent of voters. Turnout for the 2002 parliamentary elections--the first in almost three decades--was 53% in the first round and 43% in the second round, despite the fact that four political societies, including the largest Shi?a society, organized a boycott to protest constitutional provisions enacted by the King that gave the appointed upper chamber of parliament voting rights equal to the elected lower chamber. The new parliament held its first joint sitting in December 2002. Bahrain held its second set of parliamentary and municipal elections in November and December 2006. All registered political societies participated in the elections and a Shia society, Al Wifaq, now represents the largest single bloc inside the Council of Representatives. Thirty-two of the Council's 40 members represent Sunni and Shia Islamist societies. One woman, Lateefah Al-Qauod, ran uncontested and became the first woman elected to parliament in Bahrain.

Bahrain has a complex system of courts, based on diverse legal sources, including Sunni and Shi'a Sharia (religious law), tribal law, and other civil codes and regulations created with the help of British advisers in the early 20th century. In 2001, Shaikh Hamad created the Supreme Judicial Council to regulate these courts and separate the administrative and judicial branches of government.

Principal Government Officials
King--Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
Crown Prince and Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defense Force--Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa
Prime Minister--Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Deputy Prime Minister--Jawed bin Salem Al Arrayed
Deputy Prime Minister--Shaikh Mohammad bin Mubarak Al Khalifa
Deputy Prime Minister--Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa
Foreign Minister--Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
Ambassador to the United States--Dr. Naser M.Y. Al-Belooshi
Ambassador to the United Nations--Tawfeeq Al-Ahmed Al-Mansoor

Bahrain maintains an embassy in the United States at 3502 International Drive N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; tel: [1] (202) 342-1111; fax: [1] (202) 362-2192. The Bahraini Mission to the UN is located at 866 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017; tel: [1] (212)223-6200; fax [1] (212) 319-0687.


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People
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Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
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