Qatar has concluded its first-ever elections for the Shura Council – a consultative assembly that helps the Emir draft legislature, monitor the ministerial performance and approve the national budget. Qataris voted for 30 members out of the 45 seat council. The other 15 members will be chosen directly by the Emir.
None of the 26 female candidates – from a total of more than 200 after several withdrawals – running for seats made it with turnout being 63.5 percent. In a much-anticipated election, turnout was higher than the rates of the municipal elections held every four years in Qatar. The elected members include former officials, academicians and businessmen.
In the lead up to the elections, several controversies overshadowed the first-ever major democratic experience for many Qataris. One of the major debates was electoral inclusion and citizenship. The electoral design also allowed voters to vote in their district of origin and not of residence.
There were also several candidates from a single-family or tribe. This has facilitated the tendency of Qataris to vote for their family/tribal affiliation. However, many viewed the existence of several candidates from a single-family as positive as it allowed the voter to choose the best candidate and not the one belonging to their affiliation.
Women were also hoping to enter the council to improve legislature related to women such as personal status laws. Many Qataris commented on social media that an all-men council is not the vision they have for their country. However, Qataris hope positive changes will be on their way in issues related to health and education.
Although this was Qatar first election, it is unlikely that the elections will alter the distribution of power in country. However, holding an election before 2022, when the Emirate is expected the World Cup, showcases the positive steps the nation has been taking despite criticism during the last few years.