For the first time, eligible residents of Qatar were able to vote in today’s national elections. Voter turnout was 44 percent. The result is not yet known.
The Gulf country has not yet had an elected parliament, so the elections were the first. Previously, only Qataris were allowed to vote in municipal elections.
At the same time, it is only a limited step towards democracy. Only Qataris are allowed to select the House of Representatives by two-thirds (30 out of 45 seats). The President of the State, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, chooses the remaining fifteen seats.
A bigger role for parliament
The electoral law was actually amended in 2003 to allow elections, but it was postponed year after year. Previously, the emir would elect all members of parliament, known as the Shura Council. Many Arab countries have a shura, meaning consultation. The Shura Council of Qatar had previously advised mainly on politics, but it has now been given a bit more powers.
Members may propose bills, approve the budget, or dismiss ministers. They have no say in defense, finance and security. Political parties are still banned in the Gulf state.
233 people, including 26 women, applied. Men and women cast their votes in separate rooms.
Who can vote?
When the election law was introduced, it was subject to much criticism. The law states that only residents who are eighteen years of age and over and whose ancestors lived in Qatar before 1930 can vote.
In practice, this means that only a small part of the population is actually allowed to vote, since the vast majority of the population of 2.8 million do not hold Qatari citizenship. Most of them are expats and foreign workers. The number of Qatari citizens is estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000.
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