Bahrain could declare itself a kingdom without any change in the ruling system, a senior official said Wednesday in reaction to Arab press reports that the Gulf state's emir was planning to adopt the title of king.
"A constitutional monarchy system is nothing new to Bahrain," said the minister of state for the emir's court, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, quoted by the official news agency GNA.
"Bahrain's system of government has been a hereditary monarchy since the constitution was issued in 1973," he said.
"Under a monarchy, a country could be called either a kingdom, a sultanate or an emirate, and as such Bahrain's system has been a constitutional monarchy, which is nothing new," said Sheikh Khaled.
The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, last month established a high-level committee to draw up a national charter for Bahrain, a close ally of the neighboring kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The national charter is designed "to give impetus to the democratic process in the country" of around 650,000 people, 40 percent of them foreigners.
"We hope to complete the stage of political restructuring in the country so as to put us in a better position to revitalize the economy," the emir said in an October speech.
Bahrain's elected parliament was dissolved in 1975 for "obstructing" the government's work. The mainly Shiite Muslim opposition has campaigned for it to be restored, sparking unrest that cost at least 38 lives between 1994 and 1999.
But the authorities have vowed to give the people a greater say in political life. A consultative council appointed in September included for the first time a Jew, four women, one of them a Christian, and a businessman of Indian origin.
Sheikh Hamad, who took power in March 1999 following the death of his father, has also said that municipal elections would be held in Bahrain and women be given the vote -- MANAMA (AFP)
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