|Persian Gulf States Table of Contents
In 1993 Bahrain was a constitutional monarchy in the form of an amirate with an executive-cabinet form of government and a separate judiciary. The amir 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. In addition to the amir, Shaykh Isa ibn Salman, principal government officials include his eldest son and heir apparent, Hamad ibn Isa, who is 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 has substantial executive powers, in practice he has 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, is the brother of the amir. The amir's son holds the cabinet rank of deputy prime minister. The amir's uncle, Major General Khalifa ibn Ahmad, is minister of defense; and the amir's two first cousins, Muhammad ibn Khalifa and Muhammad ibn Mubarak, are minister of interior and minister of foreign affairs, respectively. Khalifa ibn Salman, the son of the amir's second cousin, is minister of labor and social affairs. A more distantly related cousin, Abd Allah ibn Khalid, a first cousin of the amir's grandfather, is minister of justice and Islamic affairs.
The Constitutional Experiment
For more information about the government, see Facts about Bahrain.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress