Qataris vote for members of Shura Council for first time

The move to hold elections was approved in a 2003 constitutional referendum

Qatar wrapped up its first legislative election on Saturday with reports of a solid turnout.

Qataris voted for two thirds of the 45-member Shura Council, which drafts laws, approves state budgets, debates major issues and provides advice to the country's Emir Sheikh Tamim.

But the council does not have sway over matters of defence, security and the economy. Sheikh Tamim will appoint the remaining 15 members of the council.

Average turnout was 44.3 per cent in the 29 constituencies that had more than one candidate, state TV reported.

"With the chance to vote, I feel this is a new chapter," Munira, who writes children's books, told Reuters.

"I'm really happy about the number of women standing as candidates."

The latest government lists showed 26 women among about 183 candidates across 30 districts in the country, which has for several years held municipal polls.

Campaigning has taken place on social media and at community meetings, with roadside billboards also used by candidates.

"This is a first-time experience for me to be here and meet people talking about these things that we need," said Khalid Almutawah, a candidate in the Markhiya district of Doha.

"At the end of this day, the people of Qatar, they're going to be part of the decision making," said Sabaan Al Jassim, 65, another candidate in the district.

More than a third of the initial list of candidates dropped out of the race by Saturday afternoon, state television reported.

After the withdrawals, there were 183 candidates in contention for the 30 elected seats.

"Where candidates realised that they have no shot to win a seat, they decided to endorse other candidates," Andreas Krieg, an associate professor at King's College London, told AFP.

A voting 'experiment'

The move to hold elections for the council was approved in a 2003 constitutional referendum.

Last month, Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani described the vote as a new experiment and said the council could not be expected from the first year to have a "full role of any parliament".

Citizens make up about 10 per cent of Qatar's population of 2.8 million. Even then, not all Qataris are eligible to vote.

The polls have stirred tribal sensitivities after some members of a main tribe were ineligible to vote under a law restricting voting to citizens whose family was present in the country before 1930.

Updated: October 2nd 2021, 4:52 PM