Thousands of anti-government demonstrators in Bahrain rallied Sunday outside the prime minister’s office — their latest push in a weeks-long campaign for political reform.
The protesters chanted slogans against the ruling family. Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa has been in power for 40 years and is the uncle of King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.
The Shi’ite-led opposition in the small Gulf island nation has been demanding the resignation of the entire government, which is dominated by the al-Khalifa family.
Protesters say they want the Sunni monarchy to transfer powers to an elected government that is representative of the Gulf state’s majority Shi’ites.
The opposition also complains about unemployment being particularly high among Shi’ites. It claims that the government grants Bahraini citizenship to Sunni foreigners, which the opposition says takes away jobs Shi’ites can potentially access and boosts Sunni numbers in the small Gulf state.
In a move analysts say is a gesture toward the opposition, King Hamad has ordered the creation of 20,000 new government jobs.
A government crackdown on opposition protests that began February 14 killed seven demonstrators before the island state’s rulers agreed, under pressure from their Western allies, to allow peaceful demonstrations to continue.
Manama’s Pearl Square has been the epicenter of the protests.