Bahrain protests: Five key facts

The uprising that swept through the Middle East reached Bahrain's central Pearl Square, as thousands turned out to protest for reforms. Here is a list of key facts about this small cluster of islands off Saudi Arabia's coast.

What kind of government does it have?

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy that has been led by the Al Khalifah family since 1783. It gained independence from Britain in 1971, and in 1999 its leader decided to transform the country from an emirate to a kingdom. In 2001, King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah supported a transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.

Parliament, first elected in 2002, has two houses. The upper house is appointed by the king, while the lower house is elected by the people. The king remains the chief of state, and the prime minister, the other key leader, is appointed by the king. Both are members of the Al Khalifah family.

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