To cite this publication: Steven Wright, “Fixing the Kingdom: Political Evolution and Socio-Economic Challenges in Bahrain,” CIRS Occasional Paper no. 3 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2008, 2010).
Bahrain has entered into a more ‘progressive’ phase of its history under King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Various parliamentary and legislative restructuring, in addition to discernable changes within civil society, have taken place. Yet genuine socio-economic challenges remain on the horizon, which may pose risks to the political order. The reforms were drive by a recognition that far reaching political and economic changes were needed in order to combat the risk of a return to the widespread riots that Bahrain was plagued with during the late 1990s. The focus of this study is to show that internal power politics within Bahrain’s ruling elite largely explain the manner in which the reforms have been implemented in the initial years of King Hamad’s reign. A key aspect of this was a desire by the King to enhance his autonomy vis-à-vis the Prime Minister through a populist mandate. This study also surveys key social and political developments in Bahrain and illustrates some of the important challenges which remain within the Kingdom.