Qataris elected a majority of members of their legislature this Saturday, with an unprecedented oversight ballot that should not change the balance of power in this wealthy Gulf country ruled by the ruling family and banned by political parties.
The Majlis al-Shura, a small-scale advisory council, invites voters to elect 30 of its 45 members. Until then, all members of the council had been appointed by Emir Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani. Voters on both sides of the emirate dressed in traditional attire waited patiently to deposit the ballot in the ballot box. Polling stations close at 6pm (5pm in Paris), with first results expected in the evening.
In the afternoon, 101 out of 284 candidates threw in the towel in support of other contestants as candidates in their constituencies, according to state television. This first legislative ballot is held by direct universal suffrage, as prescribed by the 2004 Constitution but has been postponed several times, when the country is examined internationally.
A year later FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Authorities believe the election will attract good attention in the country, said Luciano Zakara, a Gulf specialist at Qatar University. The Shura Council can make laws, approve budgets or dismiss ministers, rights that did not exist before. But the almighty emir, who appoints the other 15 members, has the right to veto.
Of the candidates, only 28 are women
“It simply came to our notice then. Being able to be a part of (the exercise of choice) is amazing. When I returned my vote to put it in the ballot box, I felt I was participating in something bigger, ”said Sheikh Ateeq al-Khulaifi, 25, in Doha. Although there have been some political rallies, during the campaign, the candidates all preferred to focus on social issues such as health, education or human rights, avoiding discussing the foreign policy of their country or the state of the monarchy.
Candidates were required to announce their campaign events and the names of all those who will be speaking in advance. Initially there were only 28 women among the registered candidates, all of whom have to be approved by the Home Office. A small imbalance for Sabika Yusuf. “For me, the most important thing in this (election) process is to choose a candidate who can carry our votes,” she said while voting.
Sections of the population were excluded
Most of Qatar’s 2.5 million inhabitants produce and export the world’s largest liquefied natural gas, Are foreigners So you can’t vote. Of the 330,000 Qataris, already in 1930 only the descendants of the country’s citizens had the right to vote and stand as candidates, after which natural families were automatically disqualified. Members of the important Al-Maura tribe were excluded from the election, which led to heated discussions on social networks. Candidates compete in constituencies based on where their family or tribe lived in the 1930s.
In the city of Al-Khor, north of Doha, 13 candidates are running in a highly contested constituency. “There are a lot of candidates, but for me the most important thing in the election is qualification,” said Rashid Abdul Latif al-Mohanadi, 37.
According to diplomatic sources, internal voting has already taken place to decide who will be elected in the constituencies. “When you don’t have political parties (…) people vote for people they know, family and tribe,” explains Courtney Friar, a Gulf specialist at Emory College. Qataris have already voted in favor of constitutional reforms or local elections.
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