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Thursday, May 07, 2009

BTI 2008 | Bahrain Country Report


Country reports provide detailed information on the factors of assessment for each country examined, such as the status of development, problems specific to the country and management performance. Each report is written by an external expert on each country and then reviewed by a second expert, usually a native of the examined country.

Status Index 6.01 # 57th of 125

Democracy 4.63 # 77th of 125

Market Economy 7.39 # 21nd of 125

Management Index 4 .66 # 78th of 125

scale: 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) score rank trend

Executive Summary
While the years 2001 and 2002 witnessed tremendous change, the reform process has stalled since 2004. Throughout 2005, 2006 and early 2007, political conflict has reemerged and the government has resumed its repressive strategies. Earlier progress toward political liberalization has not been consolidated. Basic problems associated with the reforms, most notably resistance among substantial parts of the population to
the constitution proclaimed by the ruler in 2002, and the continuing discrimination experienced by the Shi’ite population, have not been tackled. Instead, the state has increasingly resorted to repression to
counter opposition. In 2005, thousands of Bahrainis demonstrated for
constitutional change that would put legislative competencies solely in the hands of elected representatives. To date, reforms to that effect have not been implemented, and neither the king nor the government has sought any other line of compromise. Nevertheless, all major political forces – including those that boycotted the parliamentary elections of 2002 – participated in the latest elections in November 2006, thus considerably increasing parliament’s representativeness. Nevertheless, several elements of the Bahraini political system are contradictory to democratic transformation.

The executive is not elected, the cabinet is appointed by the king, the
legislative power of elected parliamentarians is countered by the ppointed members of the consultative chamber (Majlis ash-Shura), as the two bodies have an equal amount of legislative power. Civil liberties are guaranteed by the constitution but limited by law. The separation of powers is inadequate as the king dominates all three branches: although formally independent, the judiciary is subjected to government ressure. Moreover, the actions of certain confessional groups have negatively impacted parliamentary work in the first legislative term 2002 – 2006. The boycott by Shi’ite political societies in the 2002 elections resulted in a dominance of Sunni Islamists in parliament. These, however, generally have been interested in keeping the political dominance of the Sunni minority, (which compose roughly 30% of the Bahraini population) over the Shi’ite majority (70%). As a result, major
problems were not addressed by the last parliament, among them a necessary reform of the electoral law, which retains a significant bias against the Shi’ites. Moreover, parliament has passed legislation not
compatible with liberalization, like a vaguely defined anti-terror law (July 2006), a restrictive law on demonstrations (July 2006), and restrictive amendments to the law on political societies (August 2005).

Generally, the political situation has become increasingly tense. Both state violence and violent oppositional behavior have re-emerged. Since 2004, riot police have repeatedly resorted to undue violence to disperse protesters. Moreover, political opposition activists credibly claim to be harassed by state authorities. Particularly since 2006, there have been blatantly politically motivated court rulings issued, such as the “Bandargate” press gag in October 2006, and the sentencing of activists for possession of oppositional leaflets in January 2007. At the same time, expatriate workers and policemen have been attacked, sometimes by arson (December 2006).

Nonetheless, some positive developments have taken place; the government agreed to provide basic funding for political societies in June 2006, parliament passed legislation the following month that will gradually lower the voting age, from 21 in 2002 to 18 in 2014. Attention for human rights is growing, as Bahrain was elected to the United
Nations Human Rights Council for the year 2007. Domestically, authorities have met some of the demands of human rights activists. An independent NGO (Bahrain Human Rights Society) was allowed to conduct a series of prison inspections. In addition, the government has entered into a new round of serious discussions on compensation issues with political activists returning from exile. Economic reforms have progressed, although labor, education and land reforms proceeded slower than expected. Legislation for financial services and privatization policies have been expanded, and the Bahrain Monetary Agency has been transformed into to Bahrain’s central bank.

This report is part of the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2008. The
BTI is a global ranking of transition processes in which the state of
democracy and market economic systems as well as the quality of political
management in 125 transformation and developing countries are evaluated.

The BTI is a joint project of the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Center for
Applied Policy Research (C•A•P) at Munich University.
More on the BTI at