The first elections to the Shura Council acting as parliament were held in Qatar on Saturday. 30 out of 45 members were elected, the remaining 15 are appointed by Emir Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad al-Sani. All seats went to men. The turnout at the polls was 63.5 percent.
The Shura Council is to perform legislative functions for the first time. Hitherto it had been an advisory body of little importance, all members of which were appointed by the Emir.
According to Prime Minister Sheikh Abd Allah ibn Nasir ibn Khalifa al-Sani, all 30 seats went to men. None of the 28 women candidates were elected.
233 candidates in 30 constituencies applied for membership of the Council.
The council has legislative powers and approves of the general lines of state policy, but has nothing to say on issues such as defense, security and the economy.
Political parties are banned in Qatar. The country, rich in natural gas and oil, is ruled by the as-Sanich dynasty.
Saturday’s vote was an “experiment” and it is hard to expect that the Shura Council “in the first year of its existence will fully play the role of parliament,” said Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abdulrahman al-Sani, Qatar’s foreign minister, last week.
However, this experiment only concerns the native Qatar. Only 10 percent will use the active electoral right. inhabitants of Qatar, population 2.8 million, because most of the emirate’s inhabitants are seasonal workers who came from other countries.
Qatar closer to the United Arab Emirates
The Associated Press notes that among the Gulf region sheikhates and emirates, only the parliament of Kuwait has a real influence on the policy of the government, however, appointed by the emir. Among other things, the parliament passes bills and interrogates ministers, and there are frequent clashes with the government.
Saturday’s elections – as it is noted – bring Qatar closer to the United Arab Emirates, where part of the parliament, which performs consultative and advisory functions, is elected in indirect elections.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL