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Oman is expected to hold nationwide elections for municipal councils in the next few months. The polls were originally expected to take place in October, but the government has not yet announced a date. Momentum is building, however, and on 26 September, the election committee adopted a preliminary list of 1,653 candidates, including 50 women.

Oman
Issue 990 - 04 April 2015

Risk Management Report: Saudi Arabia

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POLITICS: Established in 1932, the kingdom is the giant of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in terms of population, territory, oil wealth, and its claim to religious authority. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, whose rulers to date have all been sons of King Abdelaziz (Ibn Saud). On 23 January, on the death of his 90-year-old brother Abdullah, King Salman Bin Abdelaziz became the sixth son of Ibn Saud to assume the throne. Salman is viewed as slightly more conservative than Abdullah, whose reign saw some reform of education and the judiciary, and the appointment of women to the Shura Council. There are also concerns about his fitness to rule; at 79, Salman has had at least one stroke and is thought to suffer from age-related mental health issues.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1020 - 29 July 2016

Risk Management Report - Bahrain

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Politics: The Al-Khalifa family came to power in 1783, driving the Persian empire from the archipelago. The British empire, interested in maritime trade routes, entered into an alliance with the Al-Khalifa in 1820; only in 1971 did Bahrain declare independence. The constitution provided for a fully elected parliament, which was formed in 1973 but disbanded in 1975 after a period of repressive rule; a partially elected body was reinstated in 2002. However, power lies primarily with the executive in a polity where the Sunni royal family rules over a majority Shia population; the preponderance of Al-Khalifa in key positions blurs lines between the state and ruling family. King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa succeeded his father in 1999 and declared himself king of a constitutional monarchy in 2002.

Bahrain
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The Al-Khalifa came to power in 1783, taking its authority from the family’s conquest of the archipelago from the Persian empire. Britain, interested in maritime trade routes, entered into an alliance with the Al- Khalifa in 1820 and helped secure its rule; it was not until 1971 that Bahrain declared independence. A new constitution provided for a fully elected parliament, formed in 1973, but that was disbanded in 1975 after it fell out with the ruler. A partially elected body was reinstated in the 2002 constitution, but power lies primarily with the executive, and the preponderance of Al-Khalifa in key positions means lines between state and ruling family are very blurred. The current king, Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, succeeded his father in 1999. His uncle, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman, has been prime minister since 1971.

Bahrain
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Second deputy prime minister and interior minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdelaziz was installed as crown prince in November in a reshuffle that saw Riyadh governor Prince Salman Bin Abdelaziz appointed defence minister. Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdelaziz was made Salman’s deputy.

Saudi Arabia
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Rumbling discontent at the slow pace of reform has tipped over into a series of strikes and demonstrations in the past two months, resulting in a number of detentions.

Oman
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Parliamentary elections on 2 March will be the first national poll since a 2009 presidential election, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed 62% of the vote, sparking accusations of rigging and months of protests. With reformists largely sidelined, the March poll is widely viewed as a contest between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad

Iran
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The political crisis began in February 2011, when huge protests, inspired by events elsewhere in the region, took to the streets to demand political change. The uprising was largely crushed, but protests have continued on a smaller scale and, on the protesters’ side, political demands have, if anything, hardened.

Bahrain
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Based on its huge hydrocarbons and financial resources, Saudi Arabia is the giant of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and dominant regional player. While the past decade has seen heavy spending on education, health and social development, the Kingdom faces many problems, not least a fast-growing population, soaring energy consumption and high unemployment among young males.

Saudi Arabia
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Unresolved differences between Erbil and Baghdad are likely to define the major fault lines in the new Iraqi administration which parliament voted into power at the end of 2010. Although the Kurdish parties included the resolution of the status of Kirkuk according to article 140 of the constitution as one of their 19 conditions for supporting the new government, there are no signs that this issue will be resolved.

Iraq
Issue 984 - 08 January 2015

Risk Management Report: Iraqi Kurdistan

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POLITICS: Disagreements between the autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad have been a source of major tensions in recent years. The 2005 constitution stipulated that Iraqi Kurdistan, which has an identity very distinct from Iraq, is a federal entity recognised by Iraq and the United Nations, and the 2010 Erbil agreement with Baghdad outlined how power would be shared. But the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has protested their lack of implementation, and relations with Baghdad have been highly acrimonious. Oil has been at the centre of the dispute, with Baghdad furious that Erbil signed production-sharing agreements with international oil companies (IOCs) without its say-so, and Kurdistan refusing to export its oil through the central State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO). The Kurds accused former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki of breaching the constitution by assuming too many powers, and have threatened to hold a referendum on independence.

Iraq
Issue 983 - 11 December 2014

Risk Management Report: Saudi Arabia

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POLITICS: Saudi Arabia is the giant of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), not least because of its massive oil wealth. Established in 1932, the kingdom is an absolute monarchy. To date, all rulers have been sons of Abdelaziz Bin Saud, the first monarch; a few younger family members have recently taken more senior positions, and there is much speculation about what will happen when the aged first generation of Al-Saud eventually cedes control. King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz took over in 2005 on the death of his brother Fahd, and has overseen some reform of education and the judiciary. He faces many problems, including a poor underclass, booming population, high unemployment and unrest in Shiite communities in the Eastern Province. Foreign policy is driven by the desire to maintain regional hegemony and to compete with Iran. Riyadh’s relationship with Washington has been stormy at times, but is sustained by a mutual dependence. Saudi Arabia has a poor record on human rights, and severely restricts freedom of expression. Despite small advances, women’s rights continue to be limited: women may not drive, and must have permission from a male guardian to travel, work or enrol in higher education. King Abdullah has said women will be fully involved in the four-yearly municipal council elections (the country’s only polls) and, in early 2013, women were for the first time appointed to the 150-member Shura Council.

Saudi Arabia
Issue 1016 - 03 June 2016

Risk Management Report - Oman

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POLITICS: Oman has been governed since 1970 by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, the 14th ruler of the Al-Busaidi dynasty, founded in 1750. Qaboos, who deposed his father in a palace coup, relies on a variety of allies typically drawn from the merchant elite, rather than his relatively small family. He was briefly married but has no children or heir apparent; finalising the succession (likely to go to one of three cousins) is an increasingly pressing concern, as Qaboos has been seriously ill since mid-2014. GSN’s downward trend arrow reflects the potential for instability, due to uncertainty over who will succeed and the potential for greater public pressure for political reform – from a population of whom roughly 45% are under 20 years old.

Oman
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Kuwait’s limited parliamentary democracy has often been held up as the most democratic political system in the region, but it has also led to a string of political crises; there have been four elections in less than six years.

Kuwait
Issue 983 - 11 December 2014

Risk Management Report: Qatar

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POLITICS: The Al-Thani family has ruled Qatar since the mid-19th century, its power entrenched at the end of the Ottoman Empire with British recognition of its right to govern. Full independence was declared in 1971 and, officially, Qatar is slowly moving towards democracy. Elections have been held since 1999 for a Central Municipal Council, though voter turnout has halved to around 40%, reflecting disillusionment. The 2003 constitution also approved plans for a 45-member parliament, two thirds elected, but has yet to be implemented.

Qatar