Qatar presents itself as a supposed supporter of democracy and freedoms in the Arab world. However, what is the problem with this law that deprives Qataris of exercising their right to vote?
Several days ago, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, ratified a law regulating the holding of the country’s first legislative elections scheduled to take place in October this year. Through elections, two-thirds of the 30 members of the Shura Council will be chosen in a 45-seat council, with the Emir appointing the rest of the members.
In a referendum held in 2003, Qataris – who make up only ten percent of the population – agreed on a new constitution that provides for partial elections for the council, in which all its members are appointed, while the elections have been postponed since then, which if held would be the first general elections in the Gulf country.
Qatar, like the other Gulf States, bans political parties because they “incite tribal or sectarian strife.”
The law sparked intense debate in Qatar.
According to the law, “the right to elect members of the Shura Council is enjoyed by anyone whose original nationality was Qatari and who has completed 18 Gregorian years and is exempted from the condition Original nationality: Anyone who “acquired” Qatari nationality, provided that his grandfather is Qatari and born in the State of Qatar.
As for the candidates, the candidate must be “original Qatari national, and his age at the closing of the candidacy door is not less than 30 Gregorian years. The law also prohibits members of the ruling Al-Thani family from running, but they can vote.
The Shura Council is the legislative body in the country, and one of its tasks is to discuss what is referred to it by the Council of Ministers, such as draft laws, the state’s general policy, and budgets for major projects so that it makes “recommendations” on them.
According to the law, only descendants of Qataris who were citizens in 1930 have the right to vote and run for office, excluding members of naturalized families from that year onwards.
Candidates will have to run in constituencies linked to their family or tribe’s place of residence in the 1930s, using data collected by British-influenced authorities at the time.
Thus, the Al-Murra tribe – one of the largest tribes in Qatar – is one of whose members were excluded from candidacy and election.