Local Government History
The island nation of Bahrain is largely urbanized and has very high population density. The central government controls urban management and development issues with very little decentralized decision-making. A nominal municipal system has been in place for several decades, but until 2001 these twelve administrative bodies enjoyed little autonomy. In an important speech in October 2001, however, Bahrain’s ruling monarch, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, promised to create elected municipal councils to directly express the views of the inhabitants of each governorate. The new councils were created in 2002.
Under the political reforms of 2002, five municipal councils were formed corresponding to Bahrain’s former governorates in the capital, Muharraq, the North, Center, and South, rather than to its traditional municipalities. Each council is managed by an appointed director general under the supervision of ten elected members.
Municipal and Local Government Budgets
During the 1970s, the Municipal Central Authority under the Ministry of Interior administered municipalities. The Ministry of Housing, Municipalities, and the Environment, which has implemented several public housing projects, holds municipal authority.
The last municipal elections in Bahrain took place on November 25, 2006 followed by a second round on December 2, 2006. Out of a field of 165 candidates the National Harmony Society won 20 out of the 50 municipal seats. None of the five women municipal candidates was elected out of the field of 165 candidates. Participation was 61%, slightly less than for the concurrent legislative elections. The Municipal Elections Law, approved on February 13, 2002, gives the vote to every Bahraini man and women 21 years or older and also to citizens of other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council who own property in Bahrain. The first municipal elections under the 2002 constitution were conducted on May 9, 2002. Five political societies in Bahrain participated in the elections, but expressed 'great concern' over the distribution of the electoral departments. 306 candidates, including 31 women, competed for the 50 seats.