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Bahrain - Leadership

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy with an executive-cabinet form of government and a separate judiciary. The Al-Khalifa extended family has ruled Bahrain since the late 18th century and dominates all facets of its society and government. The King is head of state and also supreme commander of the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF); he exercises ultimate authority in all matters pertaining to the government.

The period of the shaikh Hamad bin Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa (1932-1942), and also the period of his son, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa (1942-1961) witnessed the establishment of additional government administrations to further organize the governmental system. Announcements and declarations by the government where fixed on walls, buildings, and market places to fully apprise Bahraini citizens including expatriates of the latest news and official rules. The era of His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa (1961-1999) was the era of establishing the modern State of Bahrain. The Emir has signed and issued the very first Constitution in the history of the country on the 6th of December 1973.

By the early 1990s, in addition to the amir, Shaykh Isa ibn Salman, principal government officials included his eldest son and heir apparent, Hamad ibn Isa, who was commander in chief of the BDF and deputy prime minister, and several other members of the ruling Al Khalifa. In accordance with the constitution adopted in 1973, the office of amir passes from father to eldest son unless the amir designates another male relative to succeed him. This clause of the constitution is not subject to amendment.

Although the amir had substantial executive powers, in practice he had delegated decision-making authority to a cabinet since 1956, when an amiri decree created the Administrative Council, an eleven-member body that advised the ruler on policy and supervised the growing bureaucracy. In 1970 Shaykh Isa ibn Salman issued a decree that transformed the Administrative Council into a twelve-member Council of Ministers. The president of the Council of Ministers, the prime minister, serves as the head of government. The amir appoints the prime minister, who then forms a government by selecting members of the Council of Ministers, albeit in consultation with the amir. The ministers are directly responsible to the prime minister, who, like the amir, has authority to veto a decision by any member of the council.

The Council of Ministers gradually expanded to include eighteen members, including the prime minister and the deputy prime minister. In late 1992, the prime minister, deputy prime minister, and seven of the sixteen ministers were members of the ruling Al Khalifa. The prime minister, Khalifa ibn Salman, was the brother of the amir. The amir's son held the cabinet rank of deputy prime minister. The amir's uncle, Major General Khalifa ibn Ahmad, was minister of defense; and the amir's two first cousins, Muhammad ibn Khalifa and Muhammad ibn Mubarak, were minister of interior and minister of foreign affairs, respectively. Khalifa ibn Salman, the son of the amir's second cousin, was minister of labor and social affairs. A more distantly related cousin, Abd Allah ibn Khalid, a first cousin of the amir's grandfather, was minister of justice and Islamic affairs.

Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa acceded to 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 accession. 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, 1 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 created an independent financial watchdog empowered to investigate cases of embezzlement and violations of state expenditure in July 2002.

By 2009 Washington analysts observed Prince Nasir bin Hamad al Khalifa and Prince Khalid bin Mamad al Khalifa - King Hamad's sons by his second wife - to be important emerging subjects of leadership analysis for the Bahraini royal family. But this US lacked baseline reporting to assess their scope of influence within the family, personality traits, and cognitive profile. Washington analysts sought any insights on the following questions:

  • what is the prince's birth date, level of English proficiency, and educational history?
  • does he hold an official government position? If so, what is the scope of his responsibilities? What other positions has he held, if any (such as unofficial leadership positions)? How effective was he in those positions, if any?
  • what is the prince's role within the military? What is the scope of his responsibilities? How does the rank-and-file of the military view him? Does he have credibility among the military? Are there segments of the military who dislike him or are disloyal to him?
  • what are the prince's role and level of influence within the royal family? What is the relationship between the prince and each of the following: King Hamad, Crown Prince Salman, Prime Minister Khalifa, and Ali bin Khalifa (prime minister's son)? Is there a rivalry between the prince and Crown Prince Salman? If so, what is the nature of this rivalry? Has it caused problems within the family?
  • how does matrilineage impact the prince's roles or levels of influence? Does the prince's mother (Shia bint Hassan al Ajman) maintain contact or influence with King Hamad?
  • what is the prince's health status? What is his health history, are there any chronic illnesses or childhood diseases?
  • what is his view of the United States? Has he ever visited the United States? Does he own US property?
  • what are his predominant personality traits? Is he introverted or extroverted? Does he make cogent arguments in meetings? Is he detail-oriented? Does he understand complex systems or policies? Does he read newspapers? Which ones? Does he take interest in any specific subjects? What kind of books does he read?
  • what are the prince's key views on religion? Is he a practicing Muslim? How does he view the Shia, does he have any Shia friends? What are his views for how the ruling family should address the Shia majority in Bahrain?
  • does he have strong connections to businesses, foreign governments, or ruling families? For Prince Nasir -- who is he marrying?
  • what are the prince's goals and ambitions? Does he desire a more significant role within the government? What are his interests and hobbies?
  • is there any derogatory information on either prince? Does either prince drink alcohol? Does either one use drugs?



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