Under the new constitution, there are five municipal councils in Bahrain, each with 10 elected members and an appointed chairman. The first local elections since 1957 were held on 9 May 2002. Thirty of the fifty seats contested in the five new municipal councils were decided in the first round of voting, with the remaining twenty seats—where no candidate received an absolute majority—being decided in a second round of voting on 16 May. Candidates with links to Islamist groups won the majority of seats. There were 31 women among 306 candidates in the first round of voting, but none won. After the elections, some political figures suggested that a quota system should be set up to assure that some women would obtain seats in the municipal councils. Out of the 50 municipal seats, 38 were won by candidates affiliated with Islamist parties. Voter turnout in the first round of voting was 51.3%.
The democratic municipalities are responsible for the provision of local goods and services, including transportation, waste disposal, street cleaning and beautification, and enforcing health and safety standards.