- Revoking The Elected Municipal Council Of Manama Or An Attempt To Monopolize The Capital
- 2. The Municipality for the Capital City or for Institutions
- 3. 1929, a Year of Popular Participation
- 4. The Central Municipal Authority (1974- 2001)
- 5.Zonal Municipalities
- 6. The Revival of the Elected Councils in 2002
- 7. The Ruling Family losing the Presidency of the Capital Municipality Council
- 8. The Government tightens its control over the Capital Municipality Council
- 9. Ministry of Municipalities and the Missing Stability
- 10. The Situation after the Uprising of February 14
- 11. The Capital provides 60% of the Municipal Revenue
- 12. The Control over the Financial Resources of the Capital
- 13.Targeting the Capital Municipality Council
- 14. Besieging the Capital
- 15. Council of Representatives.. A Governmental Tool
- 16. Who voted to revoke the Capital Municipality Council?
- 17. The Alternative, an appointed Municipal Council
- 18. A Comparison with the Municipal Secretariat of Amman, Jordan
This paper published by the Bahrain Centre for Studies in London BCSL will discuss the core backgrounds behind the decision taken by the Bahraini authorities to cancel the Capital Municipality Council. The municipal council was revoked in light of the decision taken by the Bahraini Council of Representatives at its meeting on June 3, 2014 to establish the General Secretariat of Manama as a alternate.
In fact, the battle for the Capital Municipality Council traces its roots back to 2002, the date on which the ruling family in Bahrain lost control of the municipal councils in general, and the Capital Municipality Council in particular. The municipal elections in that year have resulted in Al Wefaq, an opposition Society obtaining three municipal councils, the Northern Municipal Council, which was chaired by Mr. Majid Ali AlSahlawi, the Central Municipal Council, which was chaired by Ebrahim Hussein (brother of the well-known oppositionist, Abdulwahab Hussein) and the Capital Municipality Council, the most important Council of all, which was headed by Murtadha Bader.
At that time, each municipal council consisted of ten members divided into ten constituencies. Soon the government became aware of that slip, giving three vital municipal councils out of five to the Shiite opposition. Therefore, it went to rethink the entire project and almost immediately it re-distributed the municipal councils and reduced the number of constituencies from 50 municipal constituencies into 40 municipal constituencies only, through integrating some constituencies in order to regain hegemony over the majority of the municipal councils in the second edition of the elections in 2006.
Thus, Al Wefaq lost the majority it enjoyed in the municipal councils in 2002 session, as well as losing the presidency in the Central Council. That has resulted in losing the majority in the meeting of heads of municipal councils with the Minister of Municipalities, which used to be held irregularly in the past few years, turning to a formal framework under the name of “Coordinating Committee for Heads of Municipal Councils” having official records and binding decisions.
Manama Municipality since its founding in 1919 until its transformation into a municipal council in the general elections held in 2002, was always in the regime’s lap and power, more precisely in the bosom of the royal family. When all of a sudden and on 2002 it was passed without prior warning to the bosom of the (Shiite) opposition with no direct dominance of the authority. Here is the bottom line that was not reckoned well, an untreatable disease in the eyes of the authority that must be trumped and get rid of once and for all, despite the already limited powers of the municipal council.
In order to stand on the real reasons that prompted the Council of Representatives -affiliated entirely with the government- to decide to revoke the Capital Municipal Council, it is essential to read the historical background of the Capital Municipal Council, which seems to have become a harmful thorn in the government’s throat.When the authority became unable to accept the decisions of the elected municipal council, and no longer able to afford the political cost represented by the opposition control of it, that was it rushed into revoking it.
2. The Municipality for the Capital City or for Institutions
Manama Municipality was founded before the establishment of the State of Bahrain, in July 1919 where it was considered as one of the oldest municipalities in the Arab world, considered as the mother body of all official institutions that have turned to the government of Bahrain later on.
It should be noted that the Act issued on January 20, 1920 of the establishment of Manama Municipality was the first legal system for the municipalities in the State of Bahrain founded later. The Municipality at the time was responsible for almost everything, such as security, law and order, health and welfare, road construction and expansion as well as the organization of public markets. It was also responsible for monitoring animals slaughters and the unification of weights and measures plus removing water. Only the Department of Customs seemed to be excluded from its responsibilities, being the main source of revenue for the state in that period before the discovery of oil, when Bahrain was the main station in the international trade routes.
In that period, the Municipality of Manama was ran by a council composed of eight members appointed by the government. This council was headed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Isa Al Khalifa, and in 1920 Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa received the presidency of the Council, and continued in office until 1929, where his successor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa had increased the number of members of the Manama Municipal Council from 8 to 20 members. The Council here moved from full appointment system to pairing between appointment and election in half, making the government appoints 10 members where the other 10 members were elected by the citizens. That was a milestone that established the principle of popular participation on a larger scale soon after.
It should be noted that “Manama Municipality was the department responsible for security at the beginning of its establishment through a system of watchmen after it was called (Fedaweya) as in commandos. Then the board of training and operations was established down to the issuance of the first Police Act in 1930 and establishing the Police Directorate of Bahrain. The 40s saw the establishment of Coast Guard until the Ministry of Interior was established in 1971″. (1)
3. 1929, a Year of Popular Participation
Year 1929 was seen as a year of popular participation achieved for the first time, a step-off in the nature and composition of Manama Municipal Council. The work of the municipal council continued it the same manner, where elections were held on an annual basis, and on 1938 Sheikh Abdullah bin Isa Al Khalifa return to head the Council, succeeding his brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa, where he remained in office for 18 years, until 1956, when he chaired the Board of Directors of the State.
Here, Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who was the Crown Prince at the time, chaired the Capital Municipality Council and continued to head both posts for 6 years until late 1961. In that year Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa came to succeed his father, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who died later that year, and since that time the Presidency of the Council of Manama got entrusted for the “strong and wise” family man, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the current Prime Minister. Whereas, and just like his brother Sheikh Isa, he retained to chair Capital Municipality Council for 6 years, then handed it over to Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid Al Khalifa in 1967 to devote himself to the presidency of the Administrative Council.
The elections continued to be conducted on an annual basis until the year of independence in 1970, and instead of strengthening the powers of the Manama Council and expanding the popular participation, on the occasion of Independence, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, went to cancel the elections. From that time, the council turned into a remunerations centre through which the regime earns loyalty and ensure the silence of some businessmen and dignitaries affiliated to the regime.
In year 1973, which saw the first parliamentary elections in the country, the regime was tightening its grip on municipal work and redistribute it as rewards and gifts among few merchants, businessmen, and dignitaries whom it is satisfied with. In that year “the municipal work got unified in a new umbrella under Decree No. 16 of 1973 and the name of the Temporary Central Municipal Directorate appeared to play a key role in the re-planning of land and property and the division of wealth. And, of course, the presidency was given to the “trustworthy” man Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalid Al Khalifa, who quickly was named the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, so then the Temporary Central Municipal Directorate got placed in hands of Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Khalifa”. (2)
4. The Central Municipal Authority (1974- 2001)
In order to maintain the system of domination and the division of booties, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister issued a ministerial decision 6/1974 on the appointment of the Temporary Central Municipal Directorate members, to officially replace the system of election of the municipal council, which was in force until the date of independence. The resolution stated that “After reviewing the Decree No. 16 of 1973 comes the establishment of a temporary Municipal Directorate to manage the affairs of municipalities”.
It is noted in this first lineup of the Temporary Central Municipal Directorate (named Temporary as the origin of the municipal work is based on election and not appointment) that it was formed equally between the two main components of citizens, Shiites and Sunnis. The ruling family’s share represented by only one member comes together with the Sunni share. With paying much attention to the names of those appointed members who are traders, businessmen and dignitaries whom loyalty is also guaranteed. Since municipalities are the ruling family’s treasure that should not be wasted, the presidency of this directorate returned to Sheikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa in 1989, who was appointed as Minister of Housing in 1975. Later on, the responsibilities of municipalities and the environment was added to his ministry in 1995 where he became the Minister for Housing, Municipalities and Environment until 2001.
It must be pointed out that the Municipal Council of Manama was not the only council, which was established during the period that preceded the era of independence in 1970 where “ the establishment of municipalities in various regions of the country came one after another. Muharraq Municipality was established in 1929 and was responsible for the island of Muharraq, Riffa Municipality in 1951, the Sitra Municipality in 1957, Jidhafs Municipality in 1958, Hidd Municipality (separated from Muharraq Municipality in 1963), Isa Town Municipality in 1968, Western area Municipality in 1970, Northern area Municipality in 1970, Southern area Municipality in 1970, the Central area Municipality in 1974, and Hamad Town Municipality in 1985″. (4)
And here we must note down that the year of independence in 1970 saw the re-distribution of Bahrain to municipal areas, which established a system for municipal councils in 2002, and established the provincial system and system of security departments. These names appeared from the municipal system that created the opportunity for a new administrative system commensurate with the nature of the modern state.
6.The Revival of the Elected Councils in 2002
When the winds of change came after hot events witnessed by Bahrain at the end of the second millennium, and after the death of the Emir of Bahrain, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, on 6 March 1999, his son, Prince Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, took the reins of rule and announced the so-called reform project launched from the Charter National Action. The experience of the municipal elections returned to appear in a new face after being stopped for more than 30 years, in particular during the entire period of independence from 1970 until 2002.
It is noted that the municipal elections did not appear in Bahrain, even in the period of the 1973 constitution, when elections for the Council of Representatives took place. The experience of the Council of Representatives was aborted in August 23, 1975 when Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Emir of Bahrain ordered at the time to dissolve the Council of Representatives and to suspend working under the constitutional items that states on the return of elections within two months of the council’s abolition. There, the Council of the Representatives remained suspended for 27 years until the 2002 elections conducted in accordance with the new Constitution, declared by the individual will of the prince who became king after the referendum on the National Action Charter approved by 98.4% voters in the referendum Accordingly. The king promised the people of Bahrain of democratic reforms ratified by the political opposition powers, who soon discovered the deception after the issuance of the new 2002 constitution giving the king absolute powers. It was too late then!
It should be said that the total number of eligible voters in the capital Manama when municipal elections returned simultaneously with the parliamentary elections in 2002, was no more than 80 thousand voters. However, the results of these elections -boycotted by the opposition in its parliament part- have produced a new reality, where Al Wefaq Shiite opposition party won a number of 8 municipal constituencies out of 10. And even when these municipal constituencies were amended in order to ruin the municipal majority of the opposition, and under the pretext of equalizing the municipal constituencies with the parliamentary constituencies in the 2006 elections, the Shiite opposition retained a majority of 6 seats out of 8 municipal constituencies in the capital.
7. The Ruling Family losing the Presidency of the Capital Municipality Council
From here, it seemed clear that the government and the royal family were eyeing bitterly at the loss of the presidency of the Capital Municipality Council for the first time in more than 80 years. The battle to restore this important body seemed to start since that moment, whereas Mr. Murtadha Bader presiding over the Capital Municipality Council was seen as a real challenge to the authority. considering the opposition holding the richest and most important municipal councils in Bahrain was bitter in the eyes of the government. The government’s attempts went in vain to stand in the face of change.
The government went to separate the executive branch from the municipal council, and placed on top of each council a General director at the rank of Assistant Deputy Minister who directly received his orders and directives from the Minister of Municipalities, and worked to block all decisions issued by the municipal councils, especially if they were not in line with the personal desire of the Minister and the government’s Public Policy.
In general, the municipal councils did not receive the opportunity to collaborate with any of the ministers of municipalities since the return of elected municipal councils in 2002, starting from the era of the Minister, Dr. Mohammed Ali bin Mansoor Al Sitri, who was on a political dispute with most of the members of municipal councils, originated from the difference in political affiliation, and religious roots, especially with the members of municipal councils affiliated with the opposition. The case has continued with the arrival of the Minister Mansoor bin Rajab, whereas the biggest perplexity has emerged with the advent of Dr. Juma bin Ahmed Al-Kaabi, to take charge of the ministry.
Minister Al-Kaabi has taken a position of an undersecretary for several years, and was very close to the head of the municipal councils and general managers of municipalities who -by virtue of his position- followed him directly. Subsequently, he was the most knowledgeable person of all the details and thus best able to brake the decisions of municipal councils if he desires.
8. The Government tightens its control over the Capital Municipality Council
If Murtadha Bader, the former Chairman of the Capital Municipality, has suffered badly from lack of cooperation shown by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Dr. Mohammed Ali Al Sitri who eas in charge during the period of 2002- 2006. Then, Majeed Milad, who took over the presidency of the Capital Municipality Council starting from the end of 2006 got a more of sufferings than Bader, especially during the era of the two ministers Mansoor bin Rajab and Dr. Juma Al-Kaabi.
It was clear that there were official directives restricting municipal councils in general and the Capital Municipality Council in particular. Accordingly, a lot of decisions issued by the municipal councils found themselves in front of a strong bulwark by the municipal law, which states that all decisions of municipal councils should be raised to the Minister for approval. If the minister does not object on any then it can pass, however, if he objects even with reasons not clearly understood, the decisions then are transformed to the Council of Ministers for a conclusion, making the councils so very keen to satisfy the minister in any way. This case did not last for long.
The Capital Municipality Council continued to face obstacles placed by the Municipality of Manama under the management of the minister. The General Directors who chaired Manama Municipality are the most stubborn and obstructive among all general managers of different Bahraini municipalities, especially that the headquarters of the Capital Municipality Council was located in the same building in which the Ministry of Municipalities and Manama Municipality reside. Thus, the backbiting relationship had became a dominant feature between the Capital Municipality Council on one hand and the Manama Municipality and the Ministry of municipalities on the other hand.
9. Ministry of Municipalities and the Missing Stability
The Ministry of Municipalities is considered the least stable government ministries of all, being so difficult for any minister to hold his position for a long time unless was from the ruling family or closely affiliated with it. The Ministry of Municipalities has seen rotations of a large number of ministers compared with other more stable ministries. Furthermore, the ministry has seen a change in its name more than once, where this perhaps reflects the extreme bewilderment experienced by the ministry, not allowing some from outside the ruling family to gain control of it.
After that it was controlled by a member of the ruling family for eight decades, during the period it was founded in 1919 and until 2001, the ministry became rotating from one hand to another until the number of ministers from 2001 until 2008 reached to five ministers. In 2001, Jawad Salim Al Orayedh received the ministry as the Minister of Municipalities and Agriculture, being the first Shiite Minister of Municipalities, but for only one year. Then came Dr. Mohammed Ali bin Mansoor Al Sitri who held the ministry from 2002 until 2005, and then came Ali Saleh Al Saleh, as Minister of Municipalities for a period of one year only from 2005 to 2006 and then Mansoor bin Rajab received the ministry for two years from 2006 to 2008.
10. The Situation after the Uprising of February 14
It was clear that the authority, and its representative Dr. Juma bin Ahmed Al-Kaabi, who became a Minister of Municipalities and Urban Planning, have become angling opportunities against the Capital Municipality Council. The opportunity seemed to come, when Majeed Milad became a member of the General Secretariat of Al Wefaq and its representative in the national dialogue. Milad was also an expressive advocate for Al Wefaq views through the media, especially after the revolution erupted in 14th of February 2011.
The relationship has strained between the Minister of Municipalities, and the Chairman of the Capital Municipality Council, and what exacerbated this tension was the consent of the Ministry of Municipalities of the demolition of more than 35 Shiite mosques in the emergency state period (March-May 2011). Where the Ministry claimed – as is the case with the government – that these mosques (referred to as religious facilities) have been constructed without a legal license, and hereby the conflict got exposed more on the surface.
While the Municipal Council and its Chairman stand up to defend the demolished mosques, the minister and his ministerial crew (Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood) justified these mosques’ demolish. At this point, these two tracks have come to separate fully, when the Capital Municipality Council tried to keep them inseparable.
The confrontation occurred in more than one meeting, when Milad held the minister direct responsibility for the demolition of mosques, and refused to shake his hand in official meetings attended periodically by the two.
There is no doubt that the government began to prepare plans for the disposal of the Capital Municipality Council and its “feisty” Chairman. The conspiracy ideas here began to surface, and the issue of converting the Capital Municipality Council into the General Municipal Secretariat of Manama was raised for the first time in the press and social gatherings on claims to benefit from the experience of the Secretariat of the Municipality of Amman, Jordan. However, what was hiding behind the hill remained for long behind.
11. The Capital provides 60% of the Municipal Revenue
The Capital Municipality Council is seen as the hen that lays the golden egg amongst the various municipal councils, where it produces more than 60% of the municipal revenues in Bahrain. In particular the capital city supplies 64% of municipal revenues, which by some are estimated between (50 to 60 million dinars per annum). While Muharraq Municipality is found to supply only 18% of these revenues, and equal municipal revenues are shared by the Northern and Central areas of 11% for each. The revenues from the Southern area comes in the bottom of the list of only 6% of public revenue that go to the Common Fund for Municipal Resources (percentages are estimated based on information circulated among employees in the municipal affairs).
It is worth mentioning that the revenues of municipalities are not limited to fees and taxes imposed on the markets, rents and business records estimated as 10% of the value of leases for offices, shops and apartments, or the municipal fees that are imposed on citizens estimated by 2 Bahraini Dinars for almost every residential address. The Municipality reap big revenues from its investments and property which is concentrated mainly in the capital, including hotels, markets, residential and commercial buildings, lands and parking.
12. The Control over the Financial Resources of the Capital
After the system of elected municipal councils was revived, it was assumed that the income of each municipality is disturbed on the development of its projects and the areas that fall under its management. However, the government knew what that could means from the exclusivity of the Capital Municipality Council by more than 60% of the revenue of the municipal areas, so it formed the Common Fund for Financial Resources to serve all municipal revenues controlled by the Minister of Municipalities, and then re-distributed according to municipal plans adopted by the ministry.
Thus, the government dominated upon the Capital Municipality Council revenues that could have been a strong financial asset contributing to the implementation of many infrastructure projects and development planned by the Capital Municipality Council. Therefore, the opposition represented by Al Wefaq got deprived from many achievements that could increase its popularity, confirming it as a popular elected alternative able to run issues of the country. Nonetheless, the government managed to curb the ambitions of the opposition represented by the Capital Municipality Council and delimited it both financially and morally.
The largest percentage of the budget of the Common Fund for Financial Resources were being disposed by the minister himself, through contracting with companies of cleanings on the management of cleanings affairs after the hygiene sector in the municipalities undergo to privatization. Since 2002 when the first municipal elections were held in the reign of King Hamad, Gulf City Cleaning Company (one of the group companies of Abdulla Ahmed Nass (5) retained to hold the cleaning of the capital, which then got added with another cleaning contract of the Municipality of Muharraq. This joint contract has continued to rise and expand without supervision and transparency until it reached 18 million dinars annually, while Sphinx Services and its owner Ahmed Abdullah (6) held the Northern , Central and Southern areas with a contract worth 12 million dinars, roughly. This means that the cleanings companies acquire a total of 30 million dinars.
13. Targeting the Capital Municipality Council
According to the law, each municipal council must own and work with the fiscal returns from its properties, so if this law is implemented, the Capital Municipality Council would have received considerable income enabling it to implement exclusive projects of its own. But, these financial resources got controlled by the ministry and re-disbursed and divided so as to disable the Capital Municipality Council from freely achieving its planned programs, where it can turn into a pioneering model of what the opposition can do if it had access to devolution of power in peaceful democratic form in line with what is happening in the already-established democracies, promised by the National Action Charter.
From here we can understand the reasons to speed up the process to regain control of the Capital Municipality Council from which most taxes, fees and budget come from making up the Common Fund for Municipal Resources. It seems that some municipal workers are alert to these economic realities that if joined together with political realities shall provide a clear explanation for the persistence of the government and its loyalists to regain control of the Capital Municipality Council, and converting it to the General Municipal Secretariat of Manama. A Secretariat designated by the authority on its own, through which can buy loyalties, and the ruling family is very brilliant in that very field.
14. Besieging the Capital
It turns out that Majeed Milad, Chairman of Capital Municipality Council and the majority of its members know that the main purpose of this decision was to terminate the effectual presence of the opposition in the capital. They also know that all the claims and arguments are driven from pure misleading justification that aims to regain control of the Capital Municipality Council by the ruling family. Manama is the capital city, in which the government refuses to accept any sort of peaceful protests in under the pretext of fearing to disrupt the business life in it, a capital city that the government can never accept it to be controlled by the opposition through its parliamentary and municipal seats. So, when the opposition wins most seats in the capital it all came against the government’s project aimed to changing the demographics of the capital, through pumping voters between its constituencies.
The opposition denies any overlap between the municipal and political works, where the Chairman of the Capital Municipality Council Majeed Milad says “one of the reasons put forward by the Council of Representatives and that is the real meaning of the proposal, was that the Capital Municipality Council is subject to the agendas of political associations, and I here challenge any of the Representatives to come with one example in where the Council entered any political agendas or any other political factor in the context of municipal work since 2002 to 2014″ and then he adds that this decision “is a blow to the back of the municipal work, where the political dimensions behind the decision reveals that the regime tends to reduce the presence of the popular will”. (7)
15. Council of Representatives.. A Governmental Tool
The meeting of the Council of Representatives of Bahrain held on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, was among the most controversial sessions, where observers have become certain to the fact that the Council of Representatives of Bahrain is a conspiracy tool against the people and his gains. This was also evident from its decisions and laws issued during his work since it returned in 2002, as it is unusual and illogical for any elected parliament to begin to reduce its powers by its own choice, through voting on the mandatory approval of two-thirds of the Council to accept the request for the questioning of any of the ministers.
As the parliament in the same session voted to revoke the Capital Municipality Council, and approved to convert it to the “General Municipal Secretariat of the Capital” under the pretext of frequent interventions of the municipal council in political matters and the fear of domination of political associations on it, as came in the proposed amendment to the Law on Municipalities No. 35 for the year 2001.
The proposed amendment states on (distributing the Kingdom of Bahrain to number of municipalities and the Secretariat of the capital), where Capital Municipality Council is revoked and replace by a General Secretariat elected by civil society institutions, so that the capital remains untouched by the agendas of political associations, and is limited to the activity that is naturally purposed for its creation, which is to provide services to citizens only. (8)
16. Who voted to revoke the Capital Municipality Council?
The parliament was established in accordance to a map of Governorates put initially to achieve a loyal political majority, where justice is never served in the voting process among citizens, and is not compatible with the parliamentary norms followed in every country in the world. To elaborate, the number of voters for the southern Governorate, which is represented in the Council of Representatives with 6 MPs is equal to one constituency in the Northern Governorate represented only by one MP in the Council of Representatives. In the current situation, the pro-government constituencies excretes 22 deputies, while the opposition constituencies excretes only 18 seats out of 40 deputies. (9)
In addition to the unequal representation in Parliament, the withdrawal of Al Wefaq parliamentary (18 deputies) in 2011 to protest the government’s handling of the demands of the revolution of February 14, 2011, has contributed in producing a parliament belonging to the government almost entirely. This council, which is controlled by the government MPs is the one that made the decision to revoke the Capital Municipality Council and convert it to the General Municipal Secretariat of the Capital.
The government has exploited all of these conditions for the implementation of its agenda, and in fact it is the one who has a political agenda on the Council and not the opposition. Of course, this agenda stems from a strong desire to regain control of the council, which the authorities had lost with the advent of the electoral process, and failed in the restoration or adaptation of the elected council, so it was a must to be canceled.
17. The Alternative, an appointed Municipal Council
The project of revoking the Capital Municipality Council and converting it to the Municipal General Secretariat of Manama seemed as a fully undemocratic procedure that is contrary to the Constitution and contradicts claims of reform, and a raging battle between the government and the opposition.
The Chairman of the Council and its members tried to stop it, but the project had found its way to pass to the Council of Representatives described as an “easy ride” for all the decisions that the government wants to pass on, where most of its deputies became monarchists more than the king himself. so the Minister did not need to put on a lot of effort to persuade the deputies to adopt the idea.
After having the proposal pass through an incubation period for preparing the political street, it was passed to the Council of Representatives before the end of the last legislative term, where it made by each of (Ahmed Ebrahim Al Mulla, Ahmed AbdulWahid Qaratah, Adel AbdulRahman Al Asoomi, Khamees Hamad Al Rumaihi and the only Shiite member Abbas Essa Al Madhi) and then approved by the Council of Representatives.
The text of the proposal submitted by the five members of the Council of Representatives said to revoke the Capital Municipality Council and to form the General Municipal Secretariat of Manama consisting of no fewer than 10 members appointed by a royal decree. This requires an amendment to the provisions of the Municipalities Act, despite the fact that the legal advisers of the Council of Representatives expressed that the proposal is unconstitutional for violating the material (4.18, 31) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
18. A Comparison with the Municipal Secretariat of Amman, Jordan
Among the reasons cited to justify the submission of the proposal to convert the Capital Municipality Council to the General Municipal Secretariat of Manama was to simulate the municipal of Jordan.
Although the Jordanian experience was based at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the first municipal council in city of Amman of Jordan was established in 1909 and then came the Capital Municipality Council after almost ten years, the experience of municipal work in the Jordanian capital, has seen a different path from that taken by the municipal experience in Bahrain.
The Municipal Council of Amman was found when the population of the Jordanian capital did not exceed 2,000 people only, while on the other hand, Manama was a “transit” station in the way of global trade. Manama Municipal Council saw elections that continued until 1970, whereas the Municipal Council of Amman had shifted early in the year 1950 to Secretariat of Amman, on the impact of the 1948 war that witnessed the expansion of the city resulted from the displacement of many Palestinian families displaced and forced into the city of Amman.
Afterwards, the General Secretariat of Amman, was changed into the Great Secretariat of Amman in 1987 in line with the steady expansion of the area of the city where the total area reached 1688 km2, with a population of 2,200,000 people. The Municipality Council of Amman consists of 40 members, whom half are elected by the citizens, and the second half are appointed by the Council of Ministers. The Secretariat is linked directly to the Prime Minister (10). The Great Secretariat of Amman has been divided into 27 administrative districts that provide all municipal services.
On the other hand, the area of Manama is 1.680 km2 (less than 2 km2), with the total area of the entire capital governorate including all its borders 27.48 km2 (approximately 1.6% of the area of the capital, Amman). It has a population of 360,000 people, mostly foreigners, while a percentage of citizens is counted for only 35% estimated at 126,000 citizens (mostly Shiite citizens, as Shiite own 6 municipal constituencies out of 8 constituencies, meaning that Shiites represent more than 75% of the citizens in Manama).
From here, the great uncomfortable feeling of the Bahraini authorities can be clearly understood against the survival of an elected municipal council in the political and economic capital of Bahrain in the hands of the Shiite opposition. This proves the right of Shiite citizens in more political representation commensurate with their real weight, which also means that the Shiite citizens are already indigenous people in Bahrain who are exposed to serious attempts of being besieged and turned into a minority through political naturalization processes that bring about demographic change in the country.
We have reviewed through this report, the historical background of the Capital Municipality Council as in how it got founded, its stages of development, people who alternated over its presidency, its importance and its great role in the establishment of the state and all its institutions, the fiscal revenues and the Council’s position in the state’s political decision.
All of these elements made the Capital Municipality Council hold a more figurative position than the ruling family in Bahrain and it has contributed in a big and deep calamity for the royal family when it lost control with the launch of the electoral experience in 2002.
Since that date, the authorities are waiting for the chance to pounce on this council and regain control of it, through tools like the powerless Council of Representatives, political presence, and in the absence of the opposition.
The absence of opposition in the Council of Representatives was an opportunity that made the authorities in Bahrain persist in issuing laws, amendments and legal decisions that are believed to harden the task of the opposition in case it decides to return to participate in the parliamentary life again. It is believed also that this absence shall put significant obstacles in the opposition’s way that need long periods of time and great effort to be overcame, even when the presence of the opposition in the Council did not prevent the already-passing laws that are detrimental to the democratic process.
It remains to say that the step of revoking the Capital Municipality Council if is completed, will mean an end to the hope of reform, and democratic transformation claimed by the authority.
(1) Ministry of Interior of Bahrain website
(2) Ministry of Housing, Municipalities and Environment of Bahrain website 1999
(3) Official Newspaper in Bahrain on April 23, 1974
(4) Ministry of Municipalities and Urban Planning of Bahrain website
(5) Gulf City Cleaning Company owned by Abdulla Ahmed Nass Group did not face any kind of competition for entire duration of its contract which lasted over 12 years and continues its contract for 14 years now where the duration of each contract is 7 years. It is said that Nass Group has seen a large and rapid expansion to replace many of the (Shiite) construction companies like Haji Hassan Alaali and Ahmed Mansoor Alaali companies, which is believed to be crushed through official government directives. Observers share news that the number of contracts that had been laid on Hajj Hassan Alaali was all withdrawn and re-awarded to Abdulla Ahmed Nass Group and other companies owned by people closely affiliated with the government.
(6) Ahmed Abdullah, owner of Sphinx Services is the man behind the famous bribery case, when Dr. Juma Al-Kaabi accused him shortly after his appointment as minister of municipalities succeeding Minister Mansoor bin Rajab, claiming that Ahmed Abdullah had visited his home and left him a financial bribery said to be (15 thousand dinars). The owner of Sphinx Services was put in jail then on the background of this case, despite the fact that his company was in charge of cleaning of all Northern, Central and Western areas.
(7) statements of Majeed Milad for Al Wasat Newspaper
(8) the decision did not specify whether the amendment is intended to institutions of civil society in the capital only, or others -on grounds that the Secretariat is supposed to represent the people of Manama. The fact says that the institutions of civil society got mostly dominated by pro-government supporters under the management of the Ministry of Social Development led by Dr. Fatima Al Balushi. The best evidence is that of the Doctors Association and the Lawyers Association. That is apart from dissolving a number of active civil society institutions based in Manama, such as the Teachers Society, the Nurses Society, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
(9) the electoral bloc of the opposition is consisted of 18 seats that secrete about 65% of the total electoral bloc, while 35% belongs to the pro-government force.
(10) Despite the control of the king of Jordan on the reins of power, his prime minister has the confidence of the Council of Representatives of Jordan directly. Wheres this position has been traded among a large number of Jordanian political figures, whilst the Bahraini Prime Minister linger in his position for more than 44 years and is not subject to any kind of parliamentary accountability and does not need to gain the confidence of any, except the confidence of the king, who appointed him already.