Politics

Main article: Politics of Bahrain
See also: Bahraini parliamentary election, 2006 and Human rights in Bahrain
The Bahrain Royal Flight (Boeing 747SP).

Bahrain is a Constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; the head of government is the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalīfa bin Salman al Khalifa, who is the uncle of the current king. Bahrain has a bicameral National Assembly (al-Jamiyh al-Watani) consisting of the Shura Council (Majlis Al-Shura) with 40 seats and the Council of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) with 40 seats. The 40 members of the Shura are appointed by the king. In the Council of Representatives, 40 members are elected by absolute majority vote in single-member constituencies to serve 4-year terms.[56]

The first round of voting in the 2006 parliamentary election took place on 25 November 2006, and in the second round Islamists hailed a huge election victory.[57]

The opening up of politics has seen big gains for both Shīa and Sunnī Islamists in elections, which have given them a parliamentary platform to pursue their policies[citation needed]. This has meant parties launching campaigns to impose bans on female mannequins displaying lingerie in shop windows,[58] and the hanging of underwear on washing lines.[59]

Analysts of democratisation in the Middle East cite the Islamists' references to respect for human rights in their justification for these programmes as evidence that these groups can serve as a progressive force in the region[citation needed]. Islamist parties have been particularly critical of the government's readiness to sign international treaties such as the United Nation's International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.[60] At a parliamentary session in June 2006 to discuss ratification of the Convention, Sheikh Adel Mouwda, the former leader of salafist party, Asalah, explained the party's objections: "The convention has been tailored by our enemies, God kill them all, to serve their needs and protect their interests rather than ours. This why we have eyes from the American Embassy watching us during our sessions, to ensure things are swinging their way".[61]
President George W. Bush welcomes His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 29, 2004

Both Sunnī and Shī'a Islamists suffered a setback in March 2006 when 20 municipal councillors, most of whom represented religious parties, went missing in Bangkok on an unscheduled stopover when returning from a conference in Malaysia.[62] After the missing councillors eventually arrived in Bahrain they defended their stay at the Radisson Hotel in Bangkok, telling journalists it was a "fact-finding mission", and explaining: "We benefited a lot from the trip to Thailand because we saw how they managed their transport, landscaping and roads".[63] Bahraini liberals have responded to the growing power of religious parties by organising themselves to campaign through civil society in order to defend basic personal freedoms from being legislated away[citation needed]. In November 2005, al Muntada, a grouping of liberal academics, launched "We Have A Right", a campaign to explain to the public why personal freedoms matter and why they need to be defended[citation needed].