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Politics of Bahrain

Bahrain is a hereditary emirate under the rule of the Al Khalifa[?] family. The Amir, Shaykh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa[?], his uncle--Khalifa bin Sulman Al Khalifa[?] (Prime Minister) and Crown Prince Shaykh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa[?] (Commander of the Bahraini defense forces), govern Bahrain in consultation with a council of ministers. The government faces few judicial checks on its actions. The Amir recently created the Supreme Judicial Council which is intended to regulate the country's courts and separate the administrative and judicial branches of government. Despite their minority status, the Sunnis predominate because the ruling family is Sunni and is supported by the armed forces, the security service, and powerful Sunni and Shi'a merchant families.

Since 1998, the new Amir has worked to make Bahraini society more democratic and open. Such changes have included the return to the Constitution as the supreme source for the country's laws and the legalization of nongovernmental organizations. On February 14, 2001, the people of Bahrain took part in a popular referendum, in which they approved by 98.4% a return to the Constitution. Among other issues, the referendum paved the way for Bahrain to become a constitutional monarchy and to change the country's official name from the State of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Bahrain (a change which took effect in February 2002).

Along with improvements in basic civil rights protections and freedoms of expression and association, the government took the first steps to return to Bahrainis the right to elect a legislature. In his October 2001 speech to open the tenth session of the Consultative Council, the Amir declared his intention to hold municipal elections in 2002 and legislative elections before 2004. He also stated that the legislative branch of government would have two houses, one directly elected by universal male and female suffrage and the other appointed. Bahrain's progress toward political and economic reform has been steady.

Bahrain's five governorates are administered by the Minister of State for Municipalities and the Environment in conjunction with each Governorate's Governor. 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 regulation, was created with the help of British advisers in the early 20th century. This judiciary administers the legal code and reviews laws to ensure their constitutionality.

Government Country name:
conventional long form: State of Bahrain
conventional short form: Bahrain
local long form: Dawlat al Bahrayn (Arabic: البحرين)
local short form: Al Bahrayn

Data code: BA

Government type: traditional monarchy

Capital: Manama (Arabic: المنامة)

Administrative divisions: 12 municipalities (manatiq, singular - mintaqah); Al Hadd, Al Manamah, Al Mintaqah al Gharbiyah, Al Mintaqah al Wusta, Al Mintaqah ash Shamaliyah, Al Muharraq, Ar Rifa' wa al Mintaqah al Janubiyah, Jidd Hafs, Madinat Hamad, Madinat 'Isa, Juzur Hawar, Sitrah
note: all municipalities administered from Manama

Independence: 15 August 1971 (from UK)

National holiday: National Day, 16 December (1971)

Constitution: 26 May 1973, effective 6 December 1973

Legal system: based on Islamic law and English common law

Suffrage: none

Executive branch:
chief of state: Amir HAMAD bin Isa Al Khalifa (حمد بن عيسى الخليفة) (since 6 March 1999); Heir Apparent Crown Prince SALMAN bin Hamad (son of the monarch, born 21 October 1969)
head of government: Prime Minister KHALIFA bin Salman Al Khalifa (خليفة بن سلمان الخليفة) (since NA 1971)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly was dissolved 26 August 1975 and legislative powers were assumed by the Cabinet; appointed Advisory Council established 16 December 1992

Judicial branch: High Civil Appeals Court

Political parties and leaders: political parties prohibited

Political pressure groups and leaders: Shi'a activists have fomented unrest sporadically since late 1994, demanding the return of an elected National Assembly and an end to unemployment; several small, clandestine leftist and Islamic fundamentalist groups are active

International organization participation: ABEDA, AFESD, AL, AMF, ESCWA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dr. Muhammad ABD AL-GHAFFAR Abdallah
chancery: 3502 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 342-0741
FAX: [1] (202) 362-2192
consulate(s) general: New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Johnny YOUNG
embassy: Building Number 979, Road 3119 (next to Al-Ahli Sports Club), Block 311, Zinj District, Manama
mailing address: American Embassy Manama, PSC 451, FPO AE 09834-5100; International Mail: American Embassy, Box 26431, Manama
telephone: [973] 273-300
FAX: [973] 272-594

Flag description: red with a white serrated band (eight white points) on the hoist side

Reference Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

See also : Bahrain

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