Bahrain's government transformed its political activity from strict Islamism to a more liberal outlook.
In 2002, King Hamad's National Charter reintroduced constitutional rule under a bicameral parliament. The lower house was to be wholly elected.
But finally, the upper house (appointed by the royal family) ended up having the same power as its elected lower house and the Shia started to protest.
As I have mentioned it before, the Shia make up approximately 70% of Bahrain's population. Between 1994 and 1996, Bahrain witnessed a massive Shiite uprising and the Shiite have repeatedly taken to the streets of Bahrain to protest various actions of the government.
Al Wefaq, the strongest of all the Shia political parties, suspected that the monarchy wanted to stop them from dominating the political arena. Therefore, they boycotted the 2002 elections in protest.
Iran exerts a strong influence over the Shia population in Bahrain! especially a country like Iran with nuclear capability!
The beginning of women participation in the political process is a great happening. Fatima Salman became the country's first female councillor, in Muharraq, though she ran unopposed.
King Hamad's new cabinet, appointed by him a few days after the elections, continued to be dominated by members of the ruling family.
Bahrain plays an important role among the six countries composing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Let us not forget that Bahrain is particularly significant since it serves as the headquarters of the United States Fifth Fleet.
There is an important social problem in Bahrain: the BIDUNS. Most of the Biduns are Shiite and they are denied political and social rights and are refused integration into the society, even though some are third generation residents.
Although most of the Biduns were born in Bahrain, they do not have legal residency and cannot hold Bahraini passports. They have no right to travel abroad, to buy houses under government sponsored programs, or to hold government jobs. The Bahraini government issued regulations preventing them from sending their children to public schools or receiving free medical care. They are considered foreign and they can be deported any time.
Amir Hamad granted citizenship to many Biduns in 2001. The Amir Hamad has shown a positive attitude and he is willing to negotiate with the opposition. He seems to be concerned about the human rights.
Let us hope that the Amir Hamad's first steps towards reform will continue.