Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa approved the formation of a new Cabinet after reappointing Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa as Prime Minister. The cabinet’s change followed a general election on 12 November held without opposition or independent media. Voter turnout reached 70 per cent, but the authorities had made it a criminal offense to boycott the tightly controlled ballot. This was Bahrain’s third election since the 2011 demonstrations, which were driven by demands for a constitutional monarchy and further political reforms. The vote has been criticized by several human rights organizations for taking place in a climate of "political repression" following the suppression of dissent and dissolution of main opposition groups by the state, seen as the most restrictive measures since Bahrain’s return to parliamentary elections in 2002.
Bahrain has continued to clamp down on dissent, in particular targeting the Shia community ‐ whose members have long complained about discrimination and marginalization at the hands of the regime, which had worsened following the popular uprising and nationwide protests of 2011. Ahead of Shia religious celebrations, Bahraini authorities imposed heavy curbs on the religious freedom of the community and prevented them from participating in Ashura rituals. There are also concerns about large-scale human rights violations in detention centres, including allegations of torture. Human rights organizations continue to warn about dire conditions for prisoners of conscience in Bahraini jails.