Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The recent cabinet reshuffle on Monday (June 13, 2022) carried a lot of connotations and opened the door for analyses and speculation, in an initial attempt to figure out the real reason behind such a step and what it could entail in the future.
Of course, the cabinet reshuffle was primarily aimed at eliminating the rest of former Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman's wing and reducing the influence of the Al-Khawild wing, which started to have a real role in power since Hamad bin Isa took office in the late 1990s.
However, the cabinet reshuffle, which is almost the largest in Bahrain's history, has also carried other connotations in form and substance, as this government is the first since independence in which Al Khalifa's seats have been reduced to 4, including the Prime Minister. It is also the first to include 9 ministers from the Shiite community, which, despite representing the majority of Bahrainis, has been suffering from discrimination and marginalization for decades.
But why shouldn't the Shiite community representing the opposition today consider these appointments as a major event?
The political representation of Shiites is certainly important, even if it consists of pro-government Shiites, who stand far from the opposition-aligned Shiite majority. Nonetheless, the first criticism that could be levelled at the crown prince in this area is that he had to at least assign an equal number of Shiite and Sunni ministers in form, without delving into the issue of the minority and majority.
In substance, it can also be said that the Shiite community continues to not have sovereign ministries of real weight, as sovereign ministry portfolios went 50-50 between the ruling family (internal and financial) and the Sunni community (defence and foreign affairs). These pro-government Shiites were not given a sovereign portfolio. It is true that there are concerns from the ruling family about the Shiites and giving them ministries of a security and military nature, or even those related to foreign policy making and relations with states, but the Ministry of Finance, for example, could have been a shiite portfolio.
Given the nature of the new ministerial reshuffle, we note, for example, that Shiites continued to occupy ministries of some weight such as health, and less significant ministries such as electricity and water, but did not receive any of the other ministries of qualitative importance and weight such as the "justice", "education", "housing" and "media" ministries.
However, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has been transformed into two ministries to become the "Labor" and "Social Development", thus increasing the share of Shiites by one minister, and so was the case with the Ministry of Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning, which was divided into a ministry of "Municipalities and agriculture" and "Works" to increase the share of Shiites by another minister, while adding that of urban planning to the Ministry of Housing headed by Minister Al-Rumaihi, in addition to the creation of the ministry of "Infrastructure", which was given to Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, which is expected to take over the rest of the Ministry of Works' powers.
The other portfolios Shiites took were "tourism", a small sector of "industry and trade", which was transformed into a ministry, in addition to ministries whose nature no one knows or the limits of their authority, such as the Ministry of "Sustainable Development" and "Legal Affairs".
Some may see the increase in the number of Shiite loyalists in the government as positive, but the majority of Bahraini Shiites know that these ministers do not carry their concerns or aspirations. This community certainly does not count on such appointments, which mean nothing to it.