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BAHRAIN - Feb. 14 - Kingdom Of Bahrain Established.

Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa announces the establishment of the new Kingdom of Bahrain, declaring himself king and approving a new elected Parliament. He sets an Oct. 24 date for Bahrainis to elect one branch of a new bicameral legislature. A second body will be appointed by the king. The new King Hamad says the reforms are "fulfilling the promise" he made when he took over after his father's death in 1999. He pledges to pursue democracy as a way to heal divisions between the country's ruling Sunni Muslims and the Shiites who form a slight majority of its population. He says: "We are keen to resume democratic life as soon as possible for the glory of Bahrain, its prosperity and development". (The country plays a strategic military and social role in the life of the Gulf. The British-educated, anglophile, Khalifa has kept close ties with the West. The country had a national assembly briefly in the 1970s, after becoming independent of British colonial rule. But the assembly was dissolved in 1975 after Khalifa's father decided that opposition parties and "radical" groups had gained too much influence. Over the next quarter century, the sense of disenfranchisement grew among Shiites, and there was concern among the country's leaders that the emirate might fall under the influence of Shiite-dominated Iran. As part of his reforms, Hamad offered a wide-ranging truce, releasing those who had been imprisoned and encouraging those in exile to return and participate in a referendum in 2001 that led to the creation of a new Bahraini Constitution. The new changes makes Bahrain the only nation in the Persian Gulf where men and women can vote and compete for seats in parliament. Kuwait has a Parliament, but women are not allowed to serve in it or vote. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman have no elected national lawmaking bodies, though the ruling families of those states rely on appointed advisory groups. Qatar has established elected local councils, and the emir has promised more changes).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Feb 16, 2002
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