New Expatriate Councils in Bahrain will Hold Elections at End of Year

Aug 22, 2011, 12:21 ET from Kingdom of Bahrain

Western and Asian Councils will Represent Bahrain's Diverse Expatriate Community

MANAMA, Bahrain, Aug. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Representatives of new Western and Asian expatriate councils met on Friday, August 19 at an "East Meets West" event to discuss new ways to help Bahrain's diverse expatriate community. Each council will be an elected body of representatives that will articulate the concerns and aspirations of the expatriate community to the Bahraini government. The Western Expatriate and Asian Expatriate councils were approved by His Majesty King Hamad in July. Elections are slated to be held at the end of the year.

"At the moment there are two working groups paving the way for the elections later this year by organizing the process, legal framework and liaisons," said Western Expatriate Council working group chairman Andrew Stephenson. "Valid points have been brought up by all members so far, but the most important thing right now is that for the first time ever in a Middle Eastern country, there will be open and fair elections for expatriates to have a say in the running of the country," Stephenson continued.

There are over 600,000 expatriates living in Bahrain. Approximately 150 individuals attended the "East Meets West" meeting representing twenty-seven distinct nationalities. Membership to the councils is open to anyone living in Bahrain that is not a Bahraini citizen.

Stephenson expects the two councils, Western and Asian, to have similar goals. "The councils are being set up with two purposes in mind; the first being the future of Bahrain and the second being the wellbeing and future of Bahrain's expatriates... For a lot of people this country is home, therefore we have an interest in this country and positively looking to the future," Stephenson continued.

Betsy Bennett Mathieson, an expatriate living in Bahrain for 31 years believes the new councils can bolster relations between Bahrain's foreign communities living there. "These councils are also for expatriates to learn about other expatriates, that is why the 'East Meets West' launch and working together is very important," Mathieson said.

Mathieson also believes that these councils can positively influence Bahrain's youth communities. "In the case of young Bahrainis, their dreams, aspirations, mannerisms and views will be expanded due to a multicultural upbringing and this is a big step in the right direction," she said.

The Eastern or Asian Expatriate Council working groups have already begun to work on specific issues. The working groups will focus on developing foreign business and investment in Bahrain, obtaining visa permits for Bahraini residents and their children, and strengthening benefits for expatriate families.

SOURCE Kingdom of Bahrain