Manama: King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has appointed a vastly liberal Shura Council, the upper house of the bi-cameral parliament, to offset the overwhelmingly Islamist Council of Representatives.
The 40-member group named on Tuesday evening includes 10 women, a sharp contrast to the Council of Representatives where Lateefa Al Gaood is the only woman to win a seat unchallenged, while all other 17 women lost.
The upper house will be made up of 20 Sunnis, 18 Shiites, one Jewish woman, Houda Ezra Nonoo, who replaces her relative Ebrahim Nonoo, and one Christian woman, Alice Samaan, who was also a member of the 2002-2006 council which had six women.
The ruling family has two members, Shaikh Khalid Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa and Shaikh Ali Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, one less than in the previous council.
Only two religious figures, Dhiya Al Mousawi and Abdul Rahman Abdul Salam, figure in the new-look liberal-dominated council in a move that will counterbalance the massive presence of 30 religious figures in the 40-member elected house.
Most political societies were not offered representation, but Al Mithaq, a formation that has regularly called for greater liberalism in Bahrain, has ten members in the council expected to give priority to the economy over politics.
Two more media people, pan-Arab journalist Sameera Rajab and columnist Dhiya Al Mousawi, were appointed alongside incumbent member Al Wqat editor-in-chief Ebrahim Bashmi.
The nomination of Bahrain International Centre for the Disabled chairwoman Muneera Bint Hindi is seen as a tribute to the efforts by people with special needs.
The Shura will be headed by former agriculture and municipalities minister Ali Saleh Al Saleh who will replace Dr Faisal Al Mousawi, the former health minister, expected to become the president of the Medical University of Bahrain he helped found two years ago.
The opposition has often called for reducing the powers of the Shura Council which can currently block any law.
But the government said that it was needed to ensure greater social and ethnic representation and the presence in the parliament of competent and experienced members.