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Bahrain Politics

State and politics

Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Muslim royal family of Khalifa, who by the constitution has the power over virtually all political bodies. Political parties are banned and representatives of the Shiite majority who try to shake the balance of power are accused of trying to overthrow the monarchy. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how BA can stand for Bahrain.

Political System of Bahrain

Among the Gulf states, Bahrain became the country where the Arab Spring of 2011 had its biggest impact. Above all, Shiite groups objected to the social order that gathered virtually all power in the hands of the Sunni Muslim leadership, which was accused of widespread human rights violations.

GOVERNMENT

There has been constitutional monarchy since 2002 with an elected parliament and independent judiciary. The Emir, who is a Sunni Muslim, has since carried the title of king.

The National Assembly has two chambers, one of which, the House of Representatives (majlis al-nuwab), is elected in direct elections, while the other, the consultative council (majlis al-shura), is appointed by the king.

The chambers have 40 members each with a term of office of four years. All laws must be approved by the king. It is the king who appoints both the prime minister and other ministers.

There are few women in prominent political positions, although women have the right to run for election. Female suffrage was put into practice in 2002.

The dissatisfaction within the Shiite population with the prevailing constitution and the king's virtually unlimited power is recurring through demonstrations. Long prison sentences have been punished for those designated as leaders of various protest actions and the regime has accused Shiite representatives of trying to overthrow the monarchy.

Policy

Large demonstrations were held during the Arab Spring of 2011 at the Pearl Square in Manama, which can be said to be the country's equivalent of the Tahrir Square in Cairo.

The regime was alarmed by the protests and asked within the framework of the security policy cooperation within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Saudi assistance. This appeal was approved and Saudi troops were sent to Bahrain to quell the unrest. A three-month state of emergency was proclaimed and thousands of protesters arrested.

The fact that torture was systematically used in the detention centers was confirmed by the commission of inquiry that the king appointed after the disturbances. According to the Commission, 35 people, including five police officers, were killed in the clashes between protesters and security forces. The opposition indicates higher numbers.

Following the unrest, the 18 members of the Shiite-dominated opposition, al-Wefaq, left their seats in parliament. The next election in 2014 was boycotted by the opposition, which led to a situation where the Sunni Muslim minority in practice alone stands for official political life in a country where nearly half of the residents are foreign nationals who are completely foreign.

Ahead of the November 2018 elections, the political divide in the country was further deepened. Opposition was banned and three of its leaders were charged with terrorism. They were sentenced to life imprisonment following a trial sentenced by Amnesty International, among others.

The 2014 and 2018 elections were conducted without international observers.

Judiciary

Criminal law is codified and is based on English role models. In private law, Egyptian (and thus also French) law has served as a model for new legislation. Islamic law plays a major role in, among other things, criminal and family law. The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.

Human Rights

The legal system, which is based on Sharia law and customary law, is characterized by a lack of respect for political rights and legal security is low. Following the violent demonstrations in 2011, the government made a decision banning public demonstrations. The arbitrary detention of protesters is extensive and has in many cases been accompanied by torture and abuse in detention and detention.

The death penalty is applied in Bahrain. Despite protests from a number of human rights organizations, on July 27, 2019, three prisoners were executed, two of them Shia activists accused of terrorism. According to a. Amnesty International had been using torture to enforce confessions in the mass trial that underpinned the judges.

Other significant problems include violations of privacy and restrictions on civil rights such as freedom of speech, press and assembly. All radio and television stations are owned and operated by the government, which also restricts and monitors the activities of citizens on the Internet. The majority of the press is privately owned and is not subject to censorship as long as it refrains from criticizing the ruling family. However, threats, beatings and arrests of journalists occur. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2019, Bahrain was ranked 167 out of 180 countries surveyed.

Some women's representation is found in the country's governing body and several women have been appointed to internationally visible positions. Women can inherit property and travel without the company of male guardians. The dress code is also less strict than elsewhere in the Gulf states, but at the same time the Islamist influence is strong and family affairs are regulated in accordance with Sharia law.

Domestic violence is not particularly addressed in the Criminal Code, and rape in marriage is not considered a crime. There are reports that employers have raped female domestic workers, but since guilt cannot be proven in court without testimony from witnesses to the crime, victims usually miss out on judicial review. In general, the enrollment rate is considered low, as women fear social reprisals or stigmatization.

LGBTQ people are not socially accepted and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is common.

As far as economic and social rights are concerned, the situation is much brighter. In the UN agency UNDP's Human Development Index, which measures quality of life and development opportunities, Bahrain in 2017 was ranked 43, between Portugal and Chile. Health care is comprehensive and free of charge, and most forms of social security are available, to some extent even for foreign nationals who make up nearly half of the population (see Social conditions).

Heads of State

Emirs
1971-99 Shaykh Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifa
1999-2002 Shaykh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa
King
2002- Shaykh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa
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