Qatar takes first step toward long promised polls


The elections have been in the offing ever since a new constitution came into force in the emirate in June 2005.

Qatar has held three sets of local elections, in 1999, 2003 and 2007, to a single municipal council which covers the whole emirate.

Unlike in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, women have the vote.

In last year’s local polls, a female candidate, Sheikha Yussef al-Jiffri, won a contested election for the first time. She had been returned unopposed in 2003.

The new electoral law sets the voting age at 18, lays down rules for campaign funding and outlaws vote-buying, Qatari newspapers reported. Two-thirds of council members are to be elected, and the rest named by the emir.

Qatar has some 200,000 citizens our of a resident population of under one million people.

Despite the democracy rhetoric of the US administration of President George W. Bush, the conservative Muslim Gulf states have been slow to hand over real legislative power to elected representatives.

Bahrain and Kuwait have long had elected parliaments although in both countries the ruling families retain a firm grip on the levers of power.

Oman has a wholly elected advisory council, while the United Arab Emirates in 2006 held its first elections for half the seats on a similar body.

Regional superpower Saudi Arabia has partially elected municipal councils but no nationwide elected body of any sort.


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